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”.1 Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death.2 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.3 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son.4 The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”.5 Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”6 – 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”.7 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.8 Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”9
CCC 696 Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.10 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”11 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”12 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself13 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.14 “Do not quench the Spirit.”15
CCC 2600 The Gospel according to St. Luke emphasizes the action of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of prayer in Christ’s ministry. Jesus prays before the decisive moments of his mission: before his Father’s witness to him during his baptism and Transfiguration, and before his own fulfillment of the Father’s plan of love by his Passion.16 He also prays before the decisive moments involving the mission of his apostles: at his election and call of the Twelve, before Peter’s confession of him as “the Christ of God,” and again that the faith of the chief of the Apostles may not fail when tempted.17 Jesus’ prayer before the events of salvation that the Father has asked him to fulfill is a humble and trusting commitment of his human will to the loving will of the Father.
1 Jn 1:29; cf. Is 53:12.
2 Cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50.
3 Mt 3:15; cf. 26:39.
4 Cf. Lk 3:22; Is 42:1.
5 Jn 1:32-33; cf. Is 11:2.
6 Mt 3:16.
7 Jn 1:29; cf. Lk 3:21; Mt 3:14-15; Jn 1:36.
8 Is 53:7,12; cf. Jer 11:19; Ex 12:3-14; Jn 19:36; 1 Cor 5:7.
9 Mk 10:45.
10 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38-39.
11 Lk 1:17; 3:16.
12 Lk 12:49.
13 Acts 2:3-4.
14 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.
15 1 Thess 5:1.
16 Cf. Lk 3:21; 9:28; 22:41-44.
17 Cf. Lk 6:12; 9:18-20; 22:32.