with this free eBook, The Scriptural Rosary: Luminous Mysteries

We hope that this special resource will help guide you in prayer to reflect on each decade of the Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002.  As we pray these Mysteries, we can meditate on Our Lord’s public ministry, starting with His Baptism and ending with the Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist.

What happened when Jesus was baptized?

We have accounts of Jesus’ Baptism in all three Synoptic Gospels.

Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

"At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today's feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father. At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds, and, as it were, clothes the river. Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man." - St. Proclus

Why did Jesus get baptized?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 536) teaches,

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". Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death. Already he is coming to "fulfill 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. The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to "rest on him." Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened" - 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.

Where did Jesus go after His Baptism?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 538-540) states,

The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him "until an opportune time."

The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder. Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

"Perhaps someone will say: ‘He who is holy, why did he wish to be baptized?’ Pay attention therefore! Christ is baptized, not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters, and by his own purification may purify those streams which he touches.” - St. Maximus of Turin

What is the story of John the Baptist?

Matthew 3:1-12 states,

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit that befits repentance, and do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Not long after Jesus’ began His public ministry, John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas (Mt. 14:1-12).

Were Jesus and John the Baptist related?

That St. John and Jesus’ were close relatives is evident from the Gospel accounts––Elizabeth was Mary’s “kinswoman” (Luke 1:36). The Greek word used, however, doesn’t specify the degree of relationship, though it is likely a close one, based on the details of the account. Elizabeth could be Mary’s aunt, or they could be cousins. In either case, Jesus and John are closely related, as well.

How much older was John the Baptist than Jesus?

At the time of the Annunciation and Incarnation, St. Elizabeth was already in her “sixth month” (Luke 1:36). Thus, John was about six months older than Jesus.

Was John the Baptist a disciple?

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus. In a loose sense, he could be considered a disciple, since he followed the teachings of Jesus. However, he is not counted as one of the Apostles, or the larger group of disciples.

Why was John called John the Baptist?

John the Baptist—not to be confused with St. John the Apostle—was the forerunner to Jesus and is considered the last (and greatest) of the Prophets. His ministry consisted of teaching repentance throughout the land, and toward that end John provided a baptism of repentance. Such cerermonies in Judaism were external signs of conversion or purification, but they were absent the interior communication of grace which the sacrament of baptism would convey.

What does the dove symbolize in the Baptism account?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 701) states,

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. 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. 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.

"For the consecration of Christ is the greater consecration of another element. For when the Savior is washed, then already for our baptism all water is cleansed and the fount purified, that the grace of the laver may be administered to the peoples that come after. Christ therefore takes the lead in baptism, so that Christian peoples may follow after him with confidence." - St. Maximus of Turin

What is Baptism?

Baptism is the foundational sacrament by which a believer in Christ enters the community of the Church, as by various rites the Jewish child took their place in the community of Israel.

Baptism has two elements identified by Christ in John 3:1-6, water and the Holy Spirit. To the visible action of baptizing with water, already a purification ritual in Judaism, is added an invisible element that only Christ through His merits can give, the spiritual renewal of the individual through the Holy Spirit.

To be baptized, the Church teaches that water must flow on the body of the person (whether by immersion in water or by pouring water across the forehead), while the one baptizing, usually a priest or deacon, says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1263. By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

Further, the Catechism says,

Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte "a new creature," an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the divine nature," member of Christ and coheir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit (paragraph 1265).

What is the importance of Baptism?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1257) states,

The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

Who can be baptized?

Baptism is given to those who having not yet been baptized, and who, having expressed faith in the Trinity and in Christ, desire to be baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins (Cf. Acts 2:38).

The use of water and the Trinitarian formula with the proper intention accomplishes this even outside the Catholic Church. Thus, the Catholic Church does not rebaptize validly baptized Christians being received into the Church.

Videos About Baptism of the Lord

Who can baptize another person?

It requires no special minister to baptize; however, outside of an emergency or some other necessity, baptism is ordinarily reserved to a bishop, priest or deacon. Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides,

1256. The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

Should we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in the name of Jesus?

The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is valid only if water is used together with the Trinitarian formula.

Matthew 28:19 “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.”

The use of the name of Jesus has been practiced by various groups down through history, often by those denying the doctrine of the Trinity in some fashion, or the proper character of the “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” as names for the Divine Persons. Although, St. Peter, and St. Paul use other references for Baptism, such as “in the name of Jesus,” or “into His death,” these are theological statements about what baptism accomplishes. The only clear formula that expresses the Trinitarian reality of baptism––to be made sons and daughter of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, is that of Mt. 28:19. It acknowledge that our salvation comes from the Trinity and leads us back to the Trinity.

What happens when someone dies without being baptized?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1258-1261) teaches,

The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.


What is the purpose of infant Baptism?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 1250-1252) states,

Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.

Christian parents will recognize that this practice also accords with their role as nurturers of the life that God has entrusted to them.

The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole "households" received baptism, infants may also have been baptized.

Has the Church rejected the baptisms of any Christian groups?

Since the Church requires the use of water and the formula which utilizes the Divine Names of the Persons of the Trinity, it has stated that it doesn’t recognize the baptisms of groups whose theology of God is either not Trinitarian (such as the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses), or whose ideology otherwise changes the formula. Some individual Christians in order not to appear “sexist,” for example, have baptized “in the Name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.” The Church rejects such formulas as invalid, as well as the ideology behind them.

Recently the Church declared invalid the formula “We baptize . . .” used to express the communitarian dimension of Baptism. While well-intended, the theology of Baptism has always been that the principle minister is Christ Himself, and thus the use of “I baptize you . . “

While potentially the matter of baptism could be invalid, also, that is actually quite rare. The use of any liquid commonly identified as water (fresh water, salt water etc.) is valid; whereas, tea, coffee and other such liquids, while mostly water, are invalid.