CCC 444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”.1 Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence.2 He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”.3 In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”,4 that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

CCC 535 Jesus’ public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.5 John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.6 A crowd of sinners7 – tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes- come to be baptized by him. “Then Jesus appears.” The Baptist hesitates, but Jesus insists and receives baptism. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”8 This is the manifestation (“Epiphany”) of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.

CCC 536 The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.9 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.10 Already he is coming to “fulfil all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.11 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.12 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.13 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”14 – 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 608 After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.15 By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover.16 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”17

CCC 701 The dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable.18 When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him.19 The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized. In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove (columbarium) suspended above the altar. Christian iconography traditionally uses a dove to suggest the Spirit.

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”20 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”21 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

CCC 1223 All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan.22 After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”23

CCC 1224 Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”24 Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.25 The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his “beloved Son.”26

CCC 1286 In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission.27 The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.28 He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure.”29

1 Cf. Mt 3:17; cf. 17:5.
2 Jn 3:16; cf. 10:36.
3 Jn 3:18.
4 Mk 15:39.
5 Cf. Lk 3:23; Acts 1:22.
6 lK 3:3.
7 Cf. Lk 3:10-14; Mt 3:7; 21:32.
8 Mt 3:13-17.
9 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.
10 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.
11 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.
12 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.
13 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.
14 Mt 3:16.
15 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.
16 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.
17 Mk 10:45.
18 Cf. Gen 8:8-12.
19 Cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels.
20 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.
21 Phil 2:7.
22 Cf. Mt 3:13.
23 Mt 28:19-20; cf. Mk 16:15-16.
24 Mt 3:15.
25 Cf. Phil 2:7.
26 Mt 3:16-17.
27 Cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Lk 4:16-22.
28 Cf. Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:33-34.
29 Jn 3:34.