Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2022
Does the noise of the world cause you to miss important events and details? As we begin 2022, today’s Gospel highlights Jesus’ devotion to prayer. Jesus handled all things with prayer, uniting Himself to the Father. In His humanity, Jesus needed to quiet the noise of the world to align His human desires to the Father’s will. How much more then, do we need to seek silence?
Today provides the third and last revelation of the Christmas season, as we move into Ordinary time. The first was Christmas: God comes among us with Good News for the poor, the outcast, and the sinner. Jesus, born in poverty, is the Word made flesh. The second was the Epiphany: God comes among us with a message of salvation for all the people of the world, and not just for His chosen people. And lastly, today’s feast, the Baptism of Jesus: God is present in the person of Jesus, God made man. The Trinity and saving power of God is revealed to the world.
The Baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It was an event of great significance for Jesus and for the early Christian community. The baptism of Jesus is considered a manifestation of God in Jesus, another “epiphany.” On this, the last day of the Christmas season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus' relation to God: the son of Mary and Joseph is also God's own Son.
In Luke's Gospel, all three members of the Trinity are manifested ay Jesus’ Baptism: God the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus the Son. At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke focuses on the identity of Jesus. In the verses that follow, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus' ancestry back to the first person, Adam, who is also identified as the son of God. We, the children of Adam and Eve, are again made children of God through Baptism.
So why would Jesus, the Word incarnate, sinless without blemish, need to be baptized? By being baptized in the River Jordan with sinners, Jesus shows His total solidarity with man. “The Word was made flesh and lived among us,” says John’s gospel. He does not say that the Word was made a human person but that ‘He was made flesh’. In biblical language, ‘flesh’ has all the connotations of our human weaknesses. In becoming a human person, Jesus identified with us not just in our humanity but in our weak human-ness. Jesus had the same feelings and reactions that we have; only He never sinned. He aligned His will perfectly with the Father’s.
Luke says that Jesus was at prayer when His baptism took place. At all the significant moments in His public life, Jesus is praying. It was at this moment that the Spirit of God in the visible form of a dove comes down upon Jesus.
A voice, clearly that of the Father, says, “You are My Son, the Beloved; My favor rests on You.” These words set forth Jesus’ mission. It could be called is His ‘Pentecost’ experience. It is a clear endorsement from His Father for the work that Jesus is about to begin.
This feast is Jesus’ “name day.” He is the Word made flesh, full of the Spirit, and Savior of Israel from the moment of His conception. But on this day, the Spirit anoints His human nature in a new way, empowering and equipping Him for battle, for His mission to smash the oppressive powers of sin, Satan, and death, and to lead His people into freedom. He is anointed or “christened” not just as Savior-King, but as Perfect Prophet who speaks God’s final Word, and Perfect Priest who offers the perfect sacrifice taking away all sin.
Our first reading from Isaiah 40 is the first of four servant songs. Interestingly, if you read closely, you will notice that Isaiah 40 doesn’t say anything about the coming of the Messiah, what it talks about is the coming of God.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings..
...lift it up, fear not,
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God comes...”
John the Baptist is preparing the way in the wilderness. He is preparing for the coming of one after him. If he is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, if he is the figure in Isaiah 40:3, then he is preparing the way for the Lord God coming in person to Jerusalem—the Good News of the advent of God. Jesus is not just the Christ, not just the Savior, but God coming in person...the one God of Israel who has come to inaugurate this new exodus that John the Baptist is the heralding.
This is Mission of Jesus, God incarnate, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11) Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Good Shepherd. Our compassionate, loving God, the Word became flesh so that we could be liberated from the sinful inclinations of the flesh. He became flesh so we could live forever, for we were created to be imperishable.
Theme in our Life Today
John the Baptist’s message was a bold one, challenging all people, in every walk of life and at every level of the social strata to repent and seek forgiveness. Our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to Titus, highlights from what we must repent, “…to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age…” We are to reject the world and its trappings, to lay up treasures in heaven not to build up treasures on earth.
We receive the grace to overcome the world through prayer and the Sacraments. Prayer is a time for gentle insight and peace. It is not earth shattering, but it can be earth moving. God can rule with justice, insight, and liberation, but we must take the time to realize His gifts in prayer. In Baptism, we turn to God. And He forgives all of our sins. We meet Jesus, the Christ and we become one of His followers as members of the Church.
While we receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, we receive it in a deeper way at Confirmation. We receive the gifts of the Spirit: courage, understanding, ability to give good advice, knowledge of the faith, wisdom, a good prayer life, and awe of God. God gives us these gifts for the good of others and as a way to strengthen the Christian community. While Baptism makes us part of the Church, Confirmation focuses on what we are to do as members. In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to serve others and to spread the Good News of Jesus.
We learn from the Servant Songs in Isaiah, that each of us has been called, named, chosen and sent by God. Called into being at a time we did not know, born into the world of parents whom we did not choose, each of us is sustained from moment to moment, day to day, year to year, by the constant call of God. If God would cease calling, we would cease to be. We are named by God; the name stands for a primordial choice, a vocation, a summoning. God’s naming sets the terms of human existence; it is of no small significance that the name God bestows in these songs is servant. We are chosen by God. We are chosen both as individuals and as part of a community. We are chosen, in order to be sent as a sign of God’s loving compassion for the world.
Although we may not realize it through Baptism, we acknowledge God’s call, own and answer to the name which has been given to us, freely choose to be chosen and agree to be sent. In Confirmation, we affirm these choices and are further equipped for our mission. It is no small task which we have committed to. It requires our total devotion and attention. However, God is constantly by our side providing everything we need to be all we were created to be.
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy, consider the following:
How will you quiet the noise of the world in 2022? In prayer, seek God and His plan for you in the coming year.
Our God is so loving, so compassionate, so merciful, so generous…the extent of which we cannot comprehend. Make a choice to begin and end each day with praise and gratitude for our God.
You have been called, named, chosen and sent by God! There is only one you. You have an important purpose to fulfill in God’s perfect plan for the world. Seek HIM and find peace and JOY in 2022.