Life is filled with endings and beginnings. One of our common sayings is “When one door closes, another door opens.” This sequential juncture of closing and opening is a hope-giving gesture. New Year’s Eve (calendrical end of an old year and the beginning of a new one) has become such a union of the old and the new in terms of the resolutions that we tend to make.
In Luke’s gospel (3:15-22, read on the feast of Jesus’ baptism) we also note an example of an end and a beginning. Many biblical scholars point out that John the Baptist could be considered the “end” of Old Testament prophecy. and his encounter with Jesus at the time of his baptism could be considered the “beginning” of what the earlieir prophets were saying. Mercy, compassion, understanding, justice, and the like. Namely, from generic advice to specific behavior.
The focal point of this change, it seems to me, is the Baptism of Jesus himself. We note two basic ideas employed in the baptism: water and divine affirmation.
Water, in the sense that the Israelites often referred to the saving waters of the Exodus when they crossed the sea when leaving Egypt. From the time of Jesus, water took on salvific effects as reminded by the waters of Baptism.
Divine affirmation, in the sense that during Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove, and a voice was heard to say, “You are my beloved Son….” The Spirit of God means the creative power of God. This means that Jesus was able to do what he did because he shared God’s power as his son.
Every time that we bless ourselves with holy water, we are reminding ourselves of our responsibilities received at Baptism. That is, to act as Jesus did in relationship to others. Filiation, also obtained at Baptism, reminds us that all people are our brothers and sisters because all of humanity was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27)
. Consequently, water and filiation are good reminders of our Baptism and of our responsibilities.