In today’s Gospel we find John the Baptist encountering Jesus the day after Jesus’ baptism. This Gospel passage opens to us the deep truth of who Jesus really is.
John says that Jesus “existed before me.” This of course does not refer to Jesus’ human nature. We know that John the Baptist was born six months before John. What does it refer to then? To his divine nature.
Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. We are now going to briefly explore what is called the hypostatic union. Our English adjective hypostatic comes from the Greek word hupostasis, which the Fathers of the Church understood as person. So, the hypostatic union is the union of the divine and human nature in the Second Person of the Trinity.
When we talk about nature, we talk about what a thing is. So, what is Jesus? Jesus is true God and true man. Without any loss of his divinity, he became fully human. A person refers to who someone is. Who is Jesus? He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son of God.
So, when John the Baptist says, “he existed before me,” he is very conscious of Jesus’ divinity. By the way, this is of course one of the particular characteristics of John’s Gospel. He shows us the divinity of Christ from the get-go and doesn’t wait until the end of the Gospel like the other writers do.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, when meditating on the Incarnation says that we should notice that the Lord “has become man for me.” Let us reflect on how much love Jesus had for us that he became man “for me.” His love is personal.
Continuing with the revelation of Jesus’ identity, John the Baptist gives us another big clue: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” A big part of Jesus’ identity is being our Redeemer. He took on a full human nature so that he could offer his life for the salvation of the world. He loved us so much that he was born to suffer.
All of us have been born to live. Jesus, in a sense, was born to die. The meaning of his life was to give up his life for us. To surrender himself on the Cross for you and me.
Not only did Jesus become man for me, but also he has died “for me.” These are two magic words. Let’s meditate on them carefully so that they burn in our hearts.
Finally, John tells us that “he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Here John is telling us that not only has Jesus died for you and me, but also that he makes his work of salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus can give the Holy Spirit because he is God, and also because, even in his humanity, he was filled with the Holy Spirit from the first moment of his conception. This is again, because of the hypostatic union, because his humanity is perfectly united with the divinity at all times. Also, because Jesus even as a human was destined to be head of the Church and he who is the head needs to have in its fullness all the holiness of the whole body, the Church.
Not only does Jesus redeem us, but also he administers his redemption by the Sacraments. He gives us the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments, especially Baptism and Confirmation. He stays with us in the Eucharist until the end of time.
So, Jesus became man for me, died for me and stayed in the Eucharist and the Sacraments for me. What am I going to do for him?