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Gospel for Sunday, January 8: Matthew 3: 13-17

Baptism of the Lord

13At that time Jesus from Galilee went to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. 14John, however, wanted to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you and you come to me?” 15But Jesus said to him: “Let it be for now, for it is fitting that we thus fulfill all righteousness.” So John agreed. 16As soon as he was baptized, Jesus came out of the water: and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. 17And behold, a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Mt 3: 13-17

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Today’s Gospel, presenting us with the Baptism of Jesus, also invites us to reflect on the meaning of our Baptism.


Jesus repeatedly proclaimed the universality of salvation: when he speaks of the Kingdom of God as the tree on which “all” the birds of the air perch, the banquet with “every kind” of guests (Lk 13:29), the goodness of God descending on all, and coming down on all as rain (Mt 5:43), the Spirit blowing “where He wills” (Jn 3:8), the Kingdom reserved for all the poor (Lk 6:20-21) and those who help them (Mt 25). And when Jesus speaks of his body and blood poured out for “many” in remission of sins (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24), the Greek term “polloi” corresponds to the Hebrew “rabbim,” which means not already “a great number,” but “the multitude” as a whole (Is 53:12).


Faith is Christocentric: only by confessing Christ can one be saved: “In no other is there salvation. For there is no other name under heaven given to men in which it is appointed that we may be saved” (Acts 4:12). And this is extremely important in this New Age time, where Jesus is seen as one of many prophets of God, along with Buddha, Muhammad, Sai Baba…, and not the only Savior.

But the Christian tradition has always affirmed that one can be saved by Christ by formally adhering to him (explicit baptism), or by living righteously according to one’s conscience even without explicitly adhering to him (Rom. 2:14-16), because one does not know him or has a distorted presentation of him (implicit baptism).

Justin, in c. 155, writes, “We have been taught that Christ is the firstborn of God, and we have shown that He is the Logos in whom all mankind was partakers. And those who lived according to the Logos are Christians, though they were judged to be atheists, as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them; among the barbarians, Abraham and Ananias and Azariah and Misaele and many others” (First Apology, ch. 46:2-4).

We are all therefore saved because we are “baptized,” that is, “immersed,” in Christ. Baptism is a “sign” of Christ’s paschal event: what matters is not the rite, but Christ’s death and resurrection, which Paul sometimes reads under other “signs,” such as the crossing of the Red Sea or Israel’s march under the cloud (Gal 2:16,19ff; 2 Cor 5:14)


Therefore, “No one comes to me unless my Father draws him” (Jn. 6:44): the call is always a gift! But God calls all men: “God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)!

It is then necessary to distinguish between:

1. predestination to eternal life, which is for everyone: each person is free to accept or reject, in his or her depths, this call: “Each one of us will give account to God for himself or herself” (Rom 4:12).

2. predestination to explicit Christian faith, which is reserved for some: to others the message does not come or does not come credibly. And here we, miserable “vessels of clay,” cannot syndicate the opinion of the “Potter” (Rom 9:14-29).

Sign of being children of God

Baptism is the fundamental sign (“sacrament” means “sign”) by which we recognize ourselves as children of God, accept that we are truly what God says we are; the image of the Son in us is no longer just “given,” but becomes “received,” recognized, ours: we thus become “personally” children of God. It is in this sense that John’s statement should be understood: “To those who believe in his name he gave power to become children of God” (Jn. 1:12).

It is not correct to say that “Baptism makes us children of God”-we are all children of God! But Baptism is the “sign” that we are children of God and that we welcome this reality into our lives.

Even the traditional expressions, “Baptism gives, infuses faith…,” are not accurate, as if faith is something material… They must be understood in the sense that in Baptism the announcement-acceptance of salvation that comes only from Jesus is realized.

Baptism a sign of death

Baptism is a death (Mk 10:38f; Lk 12:50). The etymological dignification of “baptism” is immersion. In baptism the old man drowns and we are called to be new creatures: “Or do you not know that as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus, we have been baptized into his death? Through baptism we have therefore been buried together with him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new life… We know well that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:3-13).

Baptism is a sign that indicates conversion, our renunciation of evil, our opposition to a life dictated by a selfish mentality. To be baptized is to turn from the logic of sin to the logic of love, from the logic of fear to the logic of joy, from the logic of death to the logic of life.

Becoming Christ

To be baptized into Christ Jesus means to become his property. The locution “eis to ònoma,” “in the name,” attested in Hellenistic legal and commercial language, expresses the legal passing of something into the ownership of a particular person. Henceforth, by Baptism, I must not only live as Jesus Christ, but I must “be” Jesus Christ for others-this means being “Christian”!

Baptism is for mission

Baptism therefore, as we have said, does not “make” us children of God, but is the “sign” (such is the meaning of “sacrament”), the proclamation that we are children of God, accompanied by special Grace. Baptism therefore is not so much for salvation as for mission, to “give an account of the hope that is in us” (1 Pet. 3:15). We have been predestined to proclaim to the whole world as of now God’s great love for mankind and his plan of salvation, which instead are for all (Mt 28:18-20).

This is why the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reiterated, “The pilgrim Church is by its very nature missionary” (Ad gentes, no. 2). To be baptized is to become missionary.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

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