As I ponder this feast today, I am led to reflect on two Baptisms of Jesus.
It is helpful to remember that before it was overladen with religious ritual meanings, the word baptism in the Greek language means immersion, dipping, plunging and similar activities, even dyeing.
What is set before us as we celebrate this feast today is the story of Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John. Jesus is the recipient of the immersion. The event, with some detail, is told in Matthew and Mark. Luke refers to it, and it is perhaps implied in John. This event no doubt is the prelude to Jesus’s public ministry. Into what was Jesus immersed or dipped on this occasion? It was more than the waters of the river Jordan. All four Gospels mention something else. The Spirit was seen to descend on Jesus, and John’s Gospel adds ‘and remain on him.’ This is the immersion (baptism) to celebrate, that Jesus was immersed, plunged, dipped in the Holy Spirit of God and it remained on him.
This brings me to the second Baptism of Jesus. John made it clear that his Baptism was with water, but that the one who was coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit. All four Gospels mention this, and Matthew and Luke add fire. Jesus is presented as the Immerser. So, what is this Baptism with the Holy Spirit with which Jesus immerses (baptizes)? What Jesus is offering is not a ritual cleansing, but an immersion into the Holy Spirit of God. This is immersion into Ruah, Sophia, the Wisdom of God, who was present at creation, and whose presence is now signaling a new or rather renewed creation. Being immersed in the Spirit by Jesus, is being immersed in the renewed creation with a new vision of how to live, to love and to be at one in the divine presence.
What of our own baptism or immersion? The majority of us went through a religious rite of baptism, mostly unaware. However, that may be of little consequence in our lives if we do not take a daily dip or immersion into the Spirit of God. John did not see his immersion or dipping in water as permanent. But he pointed to the one mightier than he who would immerse or dip us into Ruah, Sophia, the Wisdom of God who was present at creation.
We are invited to a daily renewal by intentionally immersing in the Spirit of God. A nightly reflection might ask, into what did I dip or immerse my life today? Was it into the frivolous, or was it into the creative Spirit of Life?
Sr. Elizabeth Ferguson, OP