Gospel Reading

Mt 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?" Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying,  "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."







     Jesus, walking more quickly than Lazarus, reached John's place of baptism two hours before him. It was morning twilight when, on the road near the place, He caught up with a crowd of people who also were going to the baptism, and He walked on with them. They did not know Him, but they could not keep their eyes off Him, for there was something about Him very remarkable. When they reached the end of their journey, it was morning. A crowd more numerous than usual was assembled to whom John was with great animation preaching of the nearness of the Messiah and of penance, proclaiming at the same time that the moment was approaching for him to retire from his office of teacher. Jesus was standing in the throng of listeners. John felt His presence. He saw Him also, and that fired him with zeal and filled his heart with joy. But he did not on that account interrupt his discourse, and when he had finished he began to baptize.

    He had already baptized very many and it was drawing on to ten o'clock, when Jesus in His turn came down among the aspirants to the pool of baptism. John bowed low before Him, saying: " I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comest Thou to me? " Jesus answered: " Suffer it to be so now, for so it becometh us to fulfil all justice that thou baptize Me and I by thee be baptized." He said also: " Thou shalt receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of blood."  Then John begged Him to follow him to the island. Jesus replied that He would do so, provided that some of the water with which all were baptized should be poured into the basin, that all present should be baptized at the same place with Himself, and that the tree by which He was to support Himself should be transplanted to the ordinary place of baptism, that all might share the same conveniences.

    The Saviour now went with John and His two disciples, Andrew and Saturnin. Andrew had followed those disciples and adherents of the Lord whose con­versation between Capharnaum and this place has been recorded above. They crossed the bridge to the island and into a little tent that, close to the eastern edge of the baptismal well, had been erected for the purpose of robing and disrobing. The disciples followed the Lord to the island, but at the far end of the bridge the people stood on the shore in great crowds. On the bridge itself three could stand abreast. One of the foremost in the latter po­sition was Lazarus.

    The baptismal well lay in a gently inclined, octangular basin the bottom of which was encircled by a similarly shaped rim connected with the Jordan by five subterranean canals. The water surrounded the whole basin, filling it through incisions made in the rim, three in the northern side serving as inlets, and two on, the southern acting as outlets. The former were visible; the latter covered, for at this point were the place of action and the avenue of entrance. For this reason the water did not here surround the well. From this south side, sodded steps led down into it by an inclination of about three feet in depth.

    In the water off the southern shore, was a red triangular, sparkling stone sunk close to the margin of the basin, the flat side toward the centre of the well, the point toward the land. This side of the well upon which were the steps leading down into it, was somewhat higher than the opposite one. This latter, viz. the north side, was the one with the three inflowing canals. On the southwestern side was a step leading to the somewhat deeper part of the margin and on this side only was there access to the well. In the well, in front of the triangular stone, stood a green tree with a slender trunk.

        The island was not quite level. It was rather elevated toward the centre and in some parts rocky. It was covered with moss and in the middle of it was the wide-spreading tree connected with which were the tops of the twelve trees planted around the edge of the island. Between every two of the trees, was a hedge of several small shrubs.

    The nine disciples that were always with Jesus during His last days went down to the well with Him and took their stand on the ledge around it. Jesus entered the tent and there laid off, first, His mantle and girdle; then a yellow, woollen garment which was closed in front by laces; then that narrow, woollen strip which He wore around His neck and crossed over the breast, and which He was accustomed to wind around His head at night and in stormy weather. Retaining His brown, woven undergarment, He stepped forth and descended to the margin of the well, where He drew it off over His head. About His loins was fastened a broad linen band which was also wound around each limb for about half a foot. Saturnin received the garments of the Lord as He disrobed, and handed them to Lazarus, who was standing on the edge of the island.

    And now Jesus descended into the well, and stood in the water up to His breast. His left arm encircled the tree, His right hand was laid on His breast, and the loosened ends of the white, linen binder floated out on the water. On the southern side of the well stood John, holding in his hand a shell with a perforated margin through which the water flowed in three streams. He stooped, filled the shell, and then poured the water in three streams over the head of the Lord, one on the back of the head, one in the middle, and the third over the forepart of the head and on the face.

    I do not now clearly remember John's words when baptizing Jesus, but they were something like the following: " May Jehovah through the ministry of His cherubin and seraphim, pour out His blessing over Thee with wisdom, understanding, and strength! '' I can not say for certain whether these last three words were really those that I heard; but I know that they were expressive of three gifts, for the mind, the soul, and the body respectively. In them was contained all that was needed to convert every creature, renewed in mind, in soul, and in body, to the Lord.

    While Jesus ascended from the depths of the baptismal well, Andrew and Saturnin, who were standing to the right of the Baptist around the triangular stone, threw about Him a large linen cloth with which He dried His person. They then put on Him a long, white baptismal robe.1 After this Jesus stepped on the red triangular stone which lay to the right of the descent into the well, Andrew and Saturnin each laid one hand upon His shoulder, while John rested his upon His head.

1. Before the baptism of Jesus, only a small white scarf was put upon the newly baptized ; but after Jesus' baptism, a larger garment was used.

    This part of the ceremony over, they were just about mounting the steps when the Voice of God came over Jesus who was still standing alone and in prayer upon the stone. There came from heaven a great, rushing wind like thunder. All trembled and looked up. A cloud of white light descended, and I saw over Jesus a winged figure of light as if flowing over Him like a stream. The heavens opened. I beheld an apparition of the Heavenly Father in the figure in which He is usually depicted and, in a voice of thunder, I heard the words: " This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. "

    Jesus was perfectly transparent, entirely penetrated by light, one could scarcely look at 'Him. I saw angels around Him.

    But off at some distance on the waters of the Jordan, I saw Satan, a dark, black figure, as if in a cloud and myriads of horrible black reptiles and vermin swarming around him. It was as if all the wickedness, all the sins, all the poison of the whole region took a visible form at the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, and fled into that dark figure as into their original source. The sight was abominable, but it served to heighten the effect of the indescribable splendor and joy and brilliancy spread over the Lord and the whole island. The sacred baptismal well sparkled and glanced, foundations and margin and waters — a pool of living light. One could see the four stones that had once supported the Ark of the Covenant shining beneath the waters as if in exultation; and on the twelve around the well, those upon which the Levites had stood, appeared angels bending in adoration, for the Spirit of God had before all mankind rendered testimony to the living Foundation, to the precious, chosen Cornerstone of the Church around whom we, as so many living stones, must build up a spiritual edifice, a holy priesthood, that thereby we may offer an acceptable, spiritual sacrifice to God through His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

    Jesus then ascended the steps and entered the tent near the baptismal well. Saturnin brought the garments which Lazarus had been holding all this time, and Jesus put them on. When clothed, He left the tent and, surrounded by His disciples, took His stand on the open space near the central tree. John in joyous tones addressed the crowd and bore witness to Jesus that He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah. He cited the Prophecies of the Patriarchs and Prophets now fulfilled, recounted what he had seen, reminded them of the voice of God which they had heard, and informed them that when Jesus returned he himself would retire. John referred also to the sacred memories that embalmed the spot upon which they were standing on account of the Ark of the Covenant's having rested here when Israel was journeying to the Land of Promise. Now, he continued, had they seen the Realization of the Covenant witnessed to by His Father, the Almighty God Himself. John referred all to Jesus, and called this day that had beheld the fulfilment of the desire of Israel blessed.

    Meanwhile many newcomers had arrived on the spot, and among them some friends of Jesus. I saw in the crowd Nicodemus, Obed, Joseph of Arimathea, John Marc, and others. John bade Andrew announce the baptism of the Messiah throughout Galilee. Then Jesus spoke, confirming in plain and simple words the truth John had proclaimed. He told them that He would withdraw from them for a short time, after which all the sick and afflicted should come to Him and He would heal and console them. They should in the meantime prepare themselves by penance and good works. He would withdraw for awhile, and then return to lay the foundations of that Kingdom which His Father had given to Him. Jesus made use of a parable when thus addressing the crowd, that of a king's son who, before taking possession of his throne, withdrew into solitude, there to prepare himself and implore the assistance of his father.

    Among His numerous listeners were some Pharisees, who received His words with ridicule. "Perhaps, after all,"  said they, "He is not the carpenter's son, but the supposititious child of some king. Is He now about to return to His kingdom? Will He assemble His subjects and march upon Jerusalem?" The idea appeared to them foolish and absurd.

    John recommenced his work, and continued throughout the whole day baptizing at the sacred well of Jesus all that were on the island. They were for the most part people who later on joined the Community of Jesus. They stepped into the water that covered the rim of the pool, the Baptist standing outside on the edge itself baptizing.