LECTIO DIVINA: Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A


Translated by Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Mt. 3:13-17.

A. Invoking  the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him, 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me? 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” Then he allowed him. 16 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. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to Matthew.

Therefore, John was sent ahead to baptize the humble Lord. The Lord wanted to be baptized for humility, not because he could have any iniquity. Why was Christ the Lord baptized? Why was Christ the Lord, the only begotten Son of God, baptized? Investigate why he was born, then you will discover why he was baptized. There you will discover the way of humility, which you cannot learn with proud feet; a road which, if you do not tread with feet of humility, you will not arrive at the sublimity to which it leads. He who descended for you was baptized for you. Note how he became small despite his greatness: Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. The equality of the Son with the Father was not robbery but nature. In John it would have been robbery if he had accepted to be considered the Christ. Therefore, he did not consider it robbery to be equal to God. It is not a result of robbery, he was co-eternal with the eternal, by whom he was begotten. Nevertheless, he emptied himself taking the form of a servant, that is, taking the form of man. Who, though existing in the form of God, emptied himself taking the form of a servant. He assumed what he was not without losing what he was. Remaining God, he assumed being man. He took the form of servant, and became God-Man, who being divine became man. Consider, therefore, what majesty, what power, what greatness, what equality with the Father; he came to assume for us the form of servant; also take note the road of humility taught by such great Teacher. More worthy of mention, is that having willed to become man, he still willed to be baptized by a man.” (s. 292, 3).

We become aware that, at the Jordan River, our God presents himself in his Trinitarian nature. Jesus arrived and was baptized by John, the Lord by his servant, an action whose objective was to give us an example of humility. Thus when John said: I ought to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me? He replied: Let it be for now, that all justice may be fulfilled. He manifested that it is in humility where justice is fulfilled. Therefore, once baptized, the heavens were opened and upon him the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. Then a voice from above was heard: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Here then we have the Blessed Trinity with clear distinction of the Persons: in the voice, the Father; in the Man, the Son; in the dove, the Holy Spirit. Certainly it was only necessary to remember it, since seeing it is very easy. With all the evidence, therefore, and without scruple of a doubt, the Trinity is being proposed, because Christ himself, the Lord, who comes to John in the condition of Servant, is certainly the Son, it cannot be said that he is the Father or the Holy Spirit. Jesus came, it says, certainly he is the Son of God. As regards the dove, who can doubt? Or who is there to say, “What is the dove?” when the Gospel itself very clearly bears witness: The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove? Similarly, as regards the voice, there is no doubt that it is of the Father, because it says: You are my Son. Therefore, we have here the Blessed Trinity with the distinction of Persons (s. 52, 1).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

  1. “This is my Son, the Beloved, my Chosen One” (Mt. 3:17).
  2. What does it mean that Christ is the Chosen and the Beloved of the Father?
  3. From baptism we are sons of God. How can you apply these words of the Gospel to your own life (to be the chosen and beloved of the Father)?
  • “If you do not tread with humble feet the road of humility, you cannot arrive at the sublimity to which it leads” (s. 292, 3).
  • Why is humility necessary in your life?
  • How can you be more humble?

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

  1. Contemplate Christ going down the river to be baptized. Contemplate his humility. Ask that you too be able to be humble.
  • Contemplate how God pronounces the words: “This is my Son, the Beloved, the Chosen One,” upon Christ, and also upon you. Verify the sentiments and affections that arise in your interior as you interiorly hear these words pronounced over you.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being the beloved and the chosen of the Father. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my predominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

“What is the baptism of Christ? The bath of water and the word. Remove the water, and there is no baptism; remove the word, neither is there baptism” (Io. eu. tr. 15, 4).

                           “ad unius Dei laudem atque dilectionem”

                                    (doctr. Chr. 2, 38,57)

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.