Opening the Word: Sharing in Divine Sonship

By:

In Matthew, John protests the baptism of Jesus, suggesting that it is Jesus who should be the one who baptizes John.

Yet Jesus answers John’s humility with a puzzling statement: “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). What does Jesus mean by this perplexing claim? How is his baptism about righteousness?

Righteousness, in the New Testament, relates to a proper relation or posture before God. The righteous one is full of virtue, pure of heart, seeking obedience to the will of God alone. It is the righteous servant in Isaiah who will bring justice to the nations.

What does it mean for Jesus to be righteous? Surely, the Word made flesh, the splendor of the Father, was not born in a state of sin. Is he not, by his very being, righteous?

The righteousness of Jesus’ baptism is revealed in the manifestation that takes place as he descends into the waters. The Spirit of God falls upon Jesus, and a voice announces that Jesus is the beloved son, who is well-pleasing to the Father (Mt 3:17).

The proclamation of Jesus’ belovedness is a reference to Psalm 2. This psalm begins with an incredulous query, demanding to know why the kings of the earth conspire against the Lord. The Lord has no fear of the duplicities of these faux kings, for God has set up a true king on Mount Zion. This king is the Lord’s own beloved son, and he will live out this sonship through taking refuge in God alone.

The great king will not depend on his own power, setting up a rival kingdom to the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. His kingdom will be the kingdom of the Father.

At last, we have a rationale for Jesus’ baptism. He is the most beloved of sons, the very Word of the Father. The kingdom of God he comes to inaugurate is not his own. Baptism is righteous for Jesus not because he’s a sinner, but because he’s the Son of the Father, the beloved son.

His sonship, though, is not simply divine. Jesus is also a son of Israel. In receiving John’s baptism, Jesus takes on all the sin of Israel, its story of redemption as his own. He has not come to introduce a redemption apart from what the prophets promised and hoped for. He is the one, the righteous servant from Isaiah who will establish justice in this sin-sick world.

In this sense, the baptism of Jesus continues the themes of Christmas. Divine sonship is not revealed in Matthew through a blinding glory. It is even unclear in Matthew whether the words announced by the Father are heard by the crowds.

As Jesus begins his ministry, what everyone sees is the son of Mary and Joseph receiving a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. His divine mission is hidden, not even fully known by John the Baptist.

In the end, is this not what divine sonship is about? It’s not about power, a glorious recognition of one’s identity. It’s about obediential love — a love that will love unto the end.

The gift of Jesus’ incarnation is that each of us is invited to share in this sonship of Jesus Christ. We may be made righteous through our baptism into Our Lord.

We have become, through Jesus, beloved sons and daughters of the Father.

Because the Word made flesh is pleasing to the Father, so are we.

Jan. 12 — The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Acts 10:34-38
Mt 3:13-17
 

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word: This Lent, let Christ use you to build the temple

Friday, February 21, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley In one week, the revelries of Fat Tuesday, the celebrations of Carnival, the donuts and king cakes and pancakes will be a... Read More

With church shootings on the rise, what are Catholic parishes doing to keep the faithful safe?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
By: Brian Fraga The people in the pews next to Chris Pereira probably have no idea he’s armed with a loaded weapon. The handgun he carries at... Read More

Vatican homeless shelter continues long history of the Church’s charitable works

Monday, February 17, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Talk about a breath of fresh air. NPR spent some minutes reporting that Pope Francis had turned a one-time palace near... Read More

Opening the Word: The Law's horizon

Friday, February 14, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Many residents of the United States distrust law. Yes, Americans appreciate basic traffic laws, legal prescriptions... Read More

Understanding the liturgy of the domestic church

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
By: Greg Popcak Have you ever thought of your family life as a liturgy? The liturgy of domestic church life. Does that seem odd? It... Read More

Many lessons were taught at the first desegregated high school in the South

Monday, February 10, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Catholic Schools Week, observed not very long ago, caused me to think about my 12 years of Catholic education, in... Read More

Opening the Word: The light of the world

Friday, February 7, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Our Gospels proclaim the blessedness of the poor, the hungry and the thirsty. The Gospels demand radical poverty, total... Read More

Sisters in solidarity: Praying for an end to abortion

Wednesday, February 5, 2020
By: Deirdre A. McQuade Planned Parenthood clinics perform over a third of all abortions in the United States. They are known to schedule even more... Read More

A culture caught up in the ingesting of darkness

Monday, February 3, 2020
By: Kathryn Jean Lopez I had an intense March for Life experience, as I typically do. People from all sorts of stages of my life seem to converge... Read More

Opening the Word: The materiality of salvation

Friday, January 31, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley On interstates, it’s normal to encounter billboards that announce to harried motorists, “Jesus saves.”... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!