THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
Isa 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29 1-10, Acts 10, 34-38, Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
“Behold my servant with whom I am well pleased” (Isa 42:1)
The opening prayer for today’s liturgy is taken from Luke’s gospel and sets our focus on the evangelist’s description of the baptism of Jesus. We read in Lk 3:
“Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended upon him like a dove, and the voice of the Father thundered: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
This blessed announcement was made to indicate the beginning of Jesus’ ministry of evangelization and salvation. Jesus said “yes” to be his Father’s servant - to redeem creation and bring forth justice to the nations. Indeed, the impact of this event was very significant to Christianity, and the holy presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit was paramount. Clearly, Jesus was never called to journey alone on his mission in life. We hear, in this passage, God’s words of support: “I have grasped you be the hand; I formed you…you will be a light to the nations, open the eyes of the blind, and bring out prisoners from confinement and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
In the first reading today, Isaiah the prophet, beautifully describes how “the servant of God” would bring forth justice to the nations. The servant would not cry out, nor shout, and he would not try to make his voice heard in the street. Even, a bruised reed he would not break, and a smoldering wick he would not quench. Rather, he would surrender to the will of his Father and would be set forth as a covenant of the people.
Each one of us, who have been baptized Christian, can connect with Jesus in today’s feast. Obviously, our baptism ceremony was not the same as his. John the Baptist did not baptize us, the visible and audible presence of the Trinity was not detectable to family and friends, and our mission in life was not as profound, like that of Jesus. Still, our faith teaches us, that the Holy Trinity is truly present and active at every individual’s baptism. At the moment of creation, each person is called and uniquely gifted – so…like Jesus – one can impact this world, in a positive way.
Jesus did pave the way and showed us how to live out the grace of our baptism. He was a human being and Pope Francis reminds us in his encyclical “Gaudium et Spes,” that Jesus needed to stay in touch with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Regularly, he would go apart and pray, to stay united to the will of God, and discern with the Holy Spirit, what the next step would be, to take him deeper into the living mystery of his vocation. Indeed, the Son of God was our premier teacher and model for living the Christian life. Prayer was his life-giving source and prayer supported his life-giving ministry. A saint from the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas, left us with a motto that supports the Jesus way: “Contemplate and give to others the fruits of your contemplation.” How challenging and comforting, Jesus’ life and these words, can influence and motivate us, to be effective “servants of God.”
However, in today’s society, a person’s life journey and purpose to bring forth “the victory of justice to nations,” is often not lived out and rooted, in the same loving, compassionate way Jesus did. Rather, the 21st century ways to victory and the tools to achieve fulfillment are clearly based on manipulation, bullying, discord, and violence; these strategies are aggressively practiced and promoted. Still…in contrast, believing Christians will continue to rely on and promote evidence in the Bible that testifies to the truth: love always conquers hate!
This Sunday’s scripture message is clear and simple. Baptized Christians, are universally commissioned to maintain a close relationship with God through prayer. Then…while being spiritually fed, we are called and supported to live the loving, compassionate way that Jesus exemplified, during his life. Here, at this juncture, civilization’s purpose will be attained. God offered to hold our hands and will ultimately, lead us together to eternal peace.
Sister Shirley Jeffcott, O.P.