THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
“I have grasped you by the hand…” Is 42: 6
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17
According to the church’s calendar, we are now at the close of the Christmas - Epiphany season, and transitioning into a new liturgical cycle called Ordinary Time. Today’s feast -The Baptism of the Lord - is the link between the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and his rebirth at the river Jordan, where he was baptized by John the Baptist.
Clearly, recent church Christian liturgies and celebrations have focused on the birth of Jesus Emmanuel. He is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, the Divine One sent by God into the world to fulfill his mission and attain our salvation. Jesus came to assume our human nature, and he lived life on earth as a “fully alive” human being. While growing up as a boy, God’s Son learned to integrate humanity with his divinity, and he dealt with normal challenges people face every day. Among many, those included the common human struggle to make life choices and decisions. Also, he embraced deep feelings of humans’ experience: joy and sorrow, hope and discouragement, strength and weakness, trust and fear. Mary, his mother, and Joseph, his foster father said “yes” to God’s will, and they supported Jesus with a strong family base, during his young life.
This Sunday, the liturgy celebrates Jesus’ “rebirth.” Indeed, the Church does not want us to forget the wonderful anticipation and joy we felt during the Christmas season; but, now it’s time to move on and be introduced to the beginnings of Christianity. Today’s liturgical focus is on the significance and deep meaning of the baptism of Jesus.
In the gospel, Matthew, the evangelist, portrays John the Baptist as humbly reluctant to be the one appointed to baptize Jesus– he strongly believed that these roles should be reversed. However, Jesus did not agree! Rather, he chose to co-operate with God’s plan, so… he humbly presented himself to John as the Father’s promised Emmanuel: “God with us.”
In the first reading, Isaiah, the prophet, emphasized that the “chosen servant” will bring forth justice to nations; and he will do this not by crying out, not shouting and not making his voice heard in the street. Instead, the victory of justice will come through God’s relationship with his servant; he will form Emmanuel and set him as a covenant to the people. God will grasp him by the hand to sustain him, and “the chosen one” will be a light to the nations. Jesus will be a healer and free the human race; he will open the eyes of the blind, bring prisoners from confinement, and free those who live in darkness.
The gospel story of Jesus’ baptism, testifies to the truth that Jesus was authentically reborn and ready for God’s mission. The evangelist provided us with a vivid description of this pivot baptismal event: Jesus “came up from the water; the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
What can we learn from this? One truth is that Jesus Emmanuel is “God with us.” He dwells within us and all around us. Also, as mentioned previously, Jesus is indeed in touch with all human feelings: joy or sorrow, hope or discouragement, strength or weakness, trust or fear. In all circumstances of life, we can sense that God’s hand is grasping our hand to sustain us on the human journey. Indeed, we need to be reborn and renewed in the presence of the Holy Trinity each day; and then go forward to spread the “good news” and contribute to establishing justice and right relationships with God, ourselves and one another.
Sister Shirley Jeffcott, OP