‘In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.’
Mark 1:9-10 (emphasis mine)
Recently, these words, ‘torn apart’ rang a bell for me, and I realised this moment is linked to the moment when Jesus died,
‘And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.’
In these two moments, God’s presence is released into the world in a new and irrevocable way. The Kingdom of Heaven is bursting out.
We should also link Jesus’ baptism to when the Israelites were submerged in the Reed Sea, and passed through to freedom from Egypt. Then they came to their 40 years Lent in the desert. Then they were baptised again, passing through the river Jordan to enter the Promised Land. They were entering the Kingdom of God.
Baptism liberates from sin, and is a being buried with and raised in Christ. So the Israelites must be washed, surrendering to the Lord, and receiving from Him their life and salvation. Then they go through the wilderness living off of the bread from heaven, to be humbled, and learn their dependence on God: ‘that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’ In this time, they go on dying to themselves, learning to live off of God. Then they must once more be baptised in the Jordan to enter their promised rest. I believe this second baptism is death: Jesus’ death on the cross and our deaths in him.
Lent is living out our baptism. For Noah and his family, their baptism and lent were simultaneous. We die to self to live in Christ each day, taking up our crosses and following him to death and resurrection. Then at the end of lent, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and enter, purified by this time of death, into the new life he has opened up for us. On Easter day, Catechumens are baptised, to show that we are baptised into the resurrected life, opened up to us by the saviour.
By baptism into Christ we are liberated. Our death is offered to God, and we are given divine life. By lent, we enter more deeply into our own death, weakness, and sin, in order to more consciously and thoroughly offer it to God, and receive in these His grace. We are made ready to enter anew into the Kingdom of God, and particularly for our final entry at the hour of our death.
Lent is exactly what the Church needs, because it’s exactly what the world needs the Church to be: God’s people dying to self, dying to the world and its futile ways, and living the life of the resurrection in Christ. We desperately need to be submerged in the spirit of Lent, so that we may be saturated with the mystery of Easter Sunday.
God bless you!