Article 50 – Catechism of the Catholic Church Series
Have your ever considered the 3 different types baptism found in Sacred Scripture?
- The first is the baptism by John the Baptist offered to his followers, “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3).
- The second is the baptism offered by John the Baptist specifically to Jesus (which prefigures what would become the Sacrament of Baptism) when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17).
- The third is the Sacrament of Baptism instituted by Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
The Catechism tells us that at Jesus’ baptism “‘the heavens were opened’ – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation” (ccc 536). This baptism of Jesus by John is understood by the Church as “the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God” (ccc 535). Later, through the Sacrament of Baptism, the new Christian is “buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him” (ccc 537) or, to say it another way, “is sacramentally assimilated to Jesus, who in his own baptism anticipates his death and resurrection” (ccc 537).
In the first chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel Jesus asks the followers of John the Baptist a question:”What did you go out to the desert to see?” (Matthew 1:7). This question kept the minds of his listeners fixated on John the Baptist. Then Jesus pointed out that his miracles and preaching fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah (26:19; 29:18–19; 35:5–6; 61:1): “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Matthew 11:4-5). Now the disciples of John went to him with convincing proof that Jesus was the Promised Messiah, the Savior of humanity.
John the Baptist was the strong bridge between the old and the new order. God sent him to make ready the way before Christ.
With deep humility John eventually acknowledged that his baptism was imperfect; that it was but a preparation; that it merely cleansed the body. Then he proclaimed that there was One living among them, One whose baptism with water and the Holy Spirit would be perfect, cleansing the soul as well as the body (John, 1:26-34; Luke, 3:15-18).
Then came the temptations of Jesus by the devil. The Catechism speaks about “a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John” (ccc 538). In the next paragraph we are told: “Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation” (ccc 539). The Catechism explains: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (ccc 540).
Finally, the theme shifts to the Kingdom of God with the passage: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). According to the Catechism, “everyone is called to enter the kingdom” (ccc 543) and “Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching” (ccc 546). Following this section on “the proclamation of the kingdom of God” is a section on “the signs of the kingdom of God,” then “the Keys of the Kingdom,” and finally a section called “a foretaste of the Kingdom.”
The signs of the kingdom of God not only include the signs worked by Jesus like the “mighty works and wonders and signs” (ccc 547) that accompanied his words but “the baptism of Jesus … as the inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant” (ccc 536).
Regarding the Keys of the Kingdom, Jesus entrusts this specific authority to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18). The power of the keys “designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church” (ccc 553).
This entire section concludes with the Transfiguration being described as the foretaste of the Kingdom with a prayer presented from the Byzantine Liturgy:
“You were transfigured on the mountain, and your disciples, as much as they were capable of it, beheld your glory, O Christ our God, so that when they should see you crucified they would understand that your Passion was voluntary, and proclaim to the world that you truly are the splendor of the Father” (ccc 555).
The final messianic entrance into Jerusalem is then described as the coming of the kingdom that the King-Messiah was going to accomplish “by the Passover of his Death and Resurrection” (ccc 560). Acclaimed as Son of David who brings salvation, the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass” as prophesied in the Old Testament book of Psalms 24:7-10 and Zechariah 9:9.
As members of the common priesthood of the faithful by virtue of our baptism, we enthusiastically affirm the Kingdom of God in our midst and pray for the extension of God’s Kingdom within us and around us.