The Baptism of Jesus: Illuminating Parts Through the Luminous Mysteries

May 31, 2023

Dear Souls and Hearts Members,

After meeting Dr. Gerry in 2016 at the Catholic Psychotherapy Association meeting, a few years passed before a mutual friend, psychologist Peter Martin, encouraged us to connect. Dr. Peter Martin’s suggestion led Dr. Gerry to join our small circle of seven close friends and colleagues, as a new member of our Depth Psychology Guild. This small group gathered three or four times annually for fraternity and collegiality. In this small group setting, Dr. Gerry and I became fast friends.

Souls and Hearts’ roots were nurtured in the Depth Psychology Guild in the strong bonds Dr. Gerry and I fostered through that connection.

Dr. Gerry’s reflection this week centers on the first Luminous Mystery of the Baptism of Jesus. I am pleased to share with you his reflections on ways to understand both the unity and the multiplicity of a human person through the lens of systems thinking in the Gospel account of this Luminous Mystery. Dr. Gerry’s work bridges the gap between the natural and the spiritual realms, helping us to consider ourselves and others in more integrated ways. His reflection concludes with a few reflection questions which I think you will find quite meaningful and thought provoking. Enjoy!


Illuminating Parts through the Luminous Mysteries:
The Baptism of Jesus
By Gerry Crete, Ph.D.

Discovering Parts in the Baptism of Jesus

In this series, I explore how the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary can provide us with wisdom and insight as we develop a Christian approach to working with our parts. I reflect on the Gospel stories from the typological or allegorical sense rather than the literal sense. Here Jesus (and in some cases his mother Mary) is seen as a “type” of the inmost self and the other characters in the stories are viewed as parts of the self-system.

From this point of view, each of the Luminous Mysteries represents a tableau of our inner world. It is through this interpretive lens that we may find new layers of insight into how we can love ourselves, others, and God in a more meaningful way. I don’t know that anyone has quite looked at the Gospel stories in this way, so I hope you will join me in this new journey. Nothing is engraved in stone, so accept what makes sense to you, and disregard the rest. I welcome any thoughts, critiques, and new insights. Feel free to reach out to me with your comments at [email protected].

The Inmost Self

The baptism of Jesus tells us a great deal about our true or inmost self. Some have described the inmost self as the conscious and spiritual center of the human soul. St. Paul says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self.” [Romans 7:22]. The inmost self communes with God in contemplative prayer and receives graces from God. Although Richard Schwartz (founder of IFS) would see the “Self” as undamaged, our faith teaches us that the whole person is affected by original and actual sin. The whole person, which includes the self and the parts, needs redemption.

Jesus, although without sin, chooses to undergo baptism to show us the way. It is the path to discovering and really “owning” or “living” our inmost self and it is also the path of humility. Jesus, who is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, chooses to be baptized by St. John the Baptist. In baptism we die in order to be reborn in Christ. Although the sacrament of baptism is a one-time event in the life of a Christian, we can reflect and recall this moment every day of our lives as we continually recommit ourselves to Christ.

Repentance, Obedience, and Humility

John the Baptist had a large following and he preached a baptism of repentance, and his dress and behavior is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. We know that Elijah was no slouch; he was a strong man of God who raised a child from the dead and he stood up against the prophets of Baal and won. And yet St. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus’ identity, “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 it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:14-15).

In the Gospel of John, we hear St. John the Baptist say, “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” (John 1:27). Jesus chooses baptism in the same way he chooses the cross; he knows that he must take on our burdens. He chooses a radical humility to show us the way to a deeper, more powerful inner transformation and the way to real intimacy with God. He is both figuratively and literally guiding us out of exile into the promised land of safety with God the Father.

In choosing to receive John’s baptism, Jesus exercises the virtues of both obedience and humility. Despite his immeasurable dignity, Jesus is obedient to the Father as he shows the way to fulfill God’s plan. In humility he is baptized, a symbol of repentance and renewal, of death and resurrection, and as a result his true nature and his true relationship with God is revealed: “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. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:10-11).

Our true identity is also revealed in our baptism. At our core, we are God’s beloved as well. We are one of God’s children. Our inmost self, in a profound way, reflects the image of God. The inmost self, like Christ, is capable of deep self-giving love and compassion. Our inmost self, a reflection of Christ’s own image, expresses “man fully alive.” As the Church Father and Doctor of the Church St. Irenaeus says, “For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation, affords life to all living in the earth, much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word, give life to those who see God.” (Against Heresies, IV.20.7).

It is important to note that Jesus’ baptism occurs at the beginning of his public ministry. He has not yet begun his public mission. God the Father is pleased with Jesus because of who he is not what he has done. The Father reveals that Jesus is his beloved. What does this tell us about the inmost self? Although we are not divine in essence like Jesus, we are, in fact, adopted children of God and with this new identity in baptism we become the beloved of God. It tells us that the inmost self is God’s beloved and that we are a new creation in Christ. This is an independent reality to any work, any deeds, or any accomplishments we have done or will do in the future. This is why St. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the foundation of the inmost self, and it is from this foundation that we choose to act, choose to achieve, and choose to love.

Unconditionally loved

Every time we dip our hands in holy water as we enter a Church, we are reminded that we are God’s beloved and that we have a new life through our baptism. God is pleased to see us and welcomes us. He knows us, he sees us, and he delights in us. Just as we take sincere delight in a small child, God sincerely enjoys us. This love is not about either what we do or our achievements. Like a good parent, He loves his children with a pure and natural love. When we take in that love that we are motivated and excited to serve him and others. His unconditional love, acceptance, and genuine enjoyment of us that inspires us.

In the same way, Jesus receives the affirmation of the Father at his baptism and then he goes out to the wilderness for forty days in preparation for his mission. He doesn’t do his ministry in order to be affirmed by the Father, but the affirmation propels him into ministry — the most important and significant work imaginable. “That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:37-38).

How important for each of us to recognize that we too are anointed and that when we accept our true identity as a beloved child of God that we will also feel motivated to make a difference in some way. Our unique mission may not be healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out demons, but it will have significance. In fact, St. Thérèse of Lisieux teaches us that there is grace and beauty in even the smallest acts of kindness and care.

St. John the Baptist in Harmony with Jesus

Aside from Christ, St. John the Baptist is the other key actor in this story. St. John has an agenda – it is to bring about a baptism of repentance and prepare the way for the Messiah. If he can be seen as a manager part, then he is certainly unburdened as he goes about his work. He carries no burdens of shame or fear or anger. He is laser-focused on doing God’s work. It is perhaps this radical surrender to God that allows him to identify Jesus as the Messiah and to respond to him with humility.

We can also see in this story the importance of the relational dynamic of our internal world. Jesus, as the inmost self, and St. John, as a manager part, work together. There is a beautiful harmony between them. St. John serves Christ in preparing the way for him in preaching and baptizing. This service culminates in the baptism of Jesus himself which leads the way for Jesus’ own ministry. Our inmost self must also work with our managers in harmony and with purpose. Our managers are meant to serve the inmost self as the whole human person seeks to fulfill God’s work in the world.

Reflection Questions

1) Schwartz describes the 8 qualities of the self (calm, clarity, compassion, confidence, connection, courage, creativity, and curiosity). I would add humility as the crowning quality of the inmost self. A humility based on a proper understanding of one’s true worth as a beloved child of God, and not self-deprecating. This humility allows our core self to approach God and hear the words, “you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.” Take a moment and allow yourself, like Jesus, to approach God in this humility. What is it like to ‘take in’ these words? Can your inmost self soak this in? Do you have parts that are uncomfortable or who protest in some way? If so, can you ask those parts to soften back? See if you can allow even a little space for your inmost self to be loved and affirmed by God today.

2) St. John the Baptist is a man on a mission. He loves God whole-heartedly. Do you have a part like this? If so, take a moment to appreciate this part that is mission-focused, driven, and deeply reverential. Is this a “choleric” part? Is he sometimes misunderstood by others? Is he service oriented? Take a moment and thank this part (or parts) of your self-system. St. John perhaps represents an unburdened manager part? What burdens do your mission-focused parts have? How can you help them lighten their load today?

Join us next week for a reflection on the second Luminous Mystery, the Wedding of Cana!


Be With the Word for Trinity Sunday – God concepts and God images

You are invited to join Dr. Gerry and me for a 47-minute discussion on how unconscious God images harm our spiritual lives in this week’s episode for Trinity Sunday. We discuss the difference between our God concept (what we know in our minds to be true about God) and our God image (what we feel to be true about God in our unconscious) as well as how the latter often harms our spiritual lives. Dr. Gerry and I read the Mass readings for Trinity Sunday aloud here.

Resilient Catholics Community

If you are seeking to overcome natural level hindrances to being loved and to loving, and if Dr. Gerry’s ideas of how we have parts inside of us – how we are both a unity and a multiplicity inside (like how an orchestra is both one unity and a multiplicity of musicians plus a conductor) then the RCC may be a great fit for you. Learn more on our RCC landing page.

We are Catholics on a pilgrimage toward better human formation, shoring up the natural foundation for our spiritual lives. Pope St. John Paul II wrote in paragraph 45 of Pastores Dabo Vobis that Human formation, when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation. Human formation leads to spiritual formation.

Pope St. John Paul II minces no words about the importance of human formation. He writes in paragraph 43 of PDV that The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation.

And that’s not just for priests – it is for all of us. All of our formation, intellectual, pastoral/apostolic, spiritual depends on our human formation.

And we at Souls and Hearts are experts in human formation. We are laser-focused on harmonizing the best of the secular disciplines (psychology, neurology, neurophysiology, sociology, etc.) with the Church’s perennial wisdom and tradition, the best of her theology, philosophy, and metaphysics, as we are told to do in the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (translated as The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World): In pastoral care, sufficient use must be made not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of the secular sciences, especially of psychology and sociology, so that the faithful may be brought to a more adequate and mature life of faith.

And why? Not just so that you can experience more unity inside, more interior integration, a sense of peace and joy – but so that you are better equipped to carry out the two great commandments, to love God with your whole heart – all the parts of you, every fiber of your being – and your neighbor as yourself.

Consider applying to the RCC – applying does not commit you to joining – there’s a mutual process of discernment that takes some time to make sure that the RCC is a good fit for you. Learn more on our landing page.

Warm regards in Christ and His Mother,

Dr. Peter

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