The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, January 9
May We Recognize and Begin to Truly Live Our Baptismal Calling, Surrendering Ourselves in All Things to God’s Will, Always Imitating the Example Jesus Has Set for Each of Us.
Over the past several weeks, we have had the wondrous privilege of being present at the Annunciation when Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, became pregnant and gave flesh to the Eternal Word. We traveled with her as she visited her cousin Elizabeth, and heard Mary proclaim the greatness of God who called her to be the Mother of His Son.
We traveled with Mary and Joseph to the small town of Bethlehem and were present in the small stable, standing next to the shepherds as they knelt in awe at what was proclaimed to them by an angel. We heard Simeon and Anna praise God at the Temple when, in fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, Mary and Joseph presented the Infant Jesus.
We stood in awe as we watched the Magi lay their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before the Christ Child, and we felt the pain which filled the hearts of Mary and Joseph as they fled to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, when he sent his soldiers into Bethlehem to murder innocent children two years of age and younger – all because of a jealous rage to protect his own throne, not understanding that the Messiah’s Kingdom was not to be an Earthly kingdom.
Several years later, we found ourselves wandering through Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph as they were searching for Jesus, only to find Him in the Temple, “sitting in the midst of teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
Today, Jesus is a grown man of thirty years in age, and we find Him on the banks of the Jordan River, walking towards His cousin John, who has been living the life of a hermit, and who has been preaching a baptism of repentance. And we hear people asking John if he is the Messiah. In humility, John responds, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
And then, the Gospel tells us that Jesus Himself was baptized. And it is this festive event which we celebrate today. This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks Jesus’ initiation into public ministry. And it is at His baptism that we hear Jesus declared the Beloved Son of God.
It is here, in the waters of the Jordan, that the Heavens open and we hear the Eternal Father express His Divine Pleasure with His Son, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” And it is here that we witness Jesus’ anointing by the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord, of course, was not in need of any baptism, for John’s was a baptism of repentance, to whom, as Matthew’s Gospel tells us, “…Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.”
And Matthew tells us that, as Jesus approached John to be baptized, John “…tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’”
In submitting to God’s plan of salvation, Jesus not only emptied from Himself His own glory so that He could become one like us in all ways except sin through His Holy Birth in Bethlehem, He also embraced being identified with sinners – a oneness with all those who were confessing their sinfulness by seeking John’s baptism. As a result, He humbled Himself by asking John for the same favor – that He be treated no differently than anyone else.
For, as Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians, “…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him…”
And, in today’s Gospel, we hear the Eternal Father doing just that, greatly exalting His Son for humbly embracing our humanity. As a people of God, what does this Feast of our Lord’s Baptism mean for you and me today?
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in a homily he gave in January 2010, stated, “Jesus became man so that we could become sons of God. God is born so that we can be re-born.” And it is in Jesus’ baptism that our rebirth is realized in the Sacramental sign of Baptism, as our individual Baptism manifests the mystery of making each one of us adopted children of God and co-heirs with Christ.
Saint Paul tells us in our Second Reading today from his Letter to Titus, “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”
With this celebration today, we recommit ourselves to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Initiated through our own Baptism, we too are the beloved of God, commissioned to proclaim the Good News – through the witness we give to the faith which you and I profess by word and example.
Our baptismal initiation into the faith, into the very citizenship of God, calls each of us to realize and live all that God asks of us. And this realization becomes manifest in the life of Jesus which unfolds before us in the weeks and months ahead.
For today marks the end of the Christmas Season and we begin Ordinary Time in the Liturgical life of the Church. As we traveled with the Holy Family during Advent and Christmas, we will now begin traveling with Jesus as He begins His public ministry.
We will hear Him call together His first disciples and watch Him perform His first public miracle at Cana. We will witness His Merciful Love as He heals those who suffer, feed the hungry and give hope to the oppressed and those burdened with life’s difficulties, all the while embracing the poor and the sinner – a journey of selfless Love which will ultimately take Him to the depths of Calvary and the glory of the Resurrection!
In this journey which we travel with Jesus, may our own journey of faith be awakened in each of us, so that what we hear, we may believe; and in what we believe, we may truly live in the witness you and I give to the life of faith we profess.
As you and I recognize and begin to truly live our baptismal calling, may we always surrender ourselves in all things to God’s will, always imitating the example Jesus has set for each of us, and always sharing together, in and with Christ, the words which we read today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “John answered them all saying, ‘I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.’” (Luke 3:16)
- “John tried to prevent [Jesus], saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” (Matthew 3:14-15b)
- “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
- “…though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him…” (Philippians 2:6-9a)
- “He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5b-7)
- “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” (Romans 8:4-5)
- “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
- “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” (Isaiah 55:3a)
- “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)
- “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I shall put my spirit.” (Isaiah 42:1ab)
Prayer for the Day
“Almighty and Eternal God,
when the Spirit descended upon Jesus
at His baptism in the Jordan,
You revealed Him as Your own Beloved Son.
“Through our rebirth in the Sacrament of Baptism,
renew within us the spirit of adoption,
so that we may always remain faithful to You,
reflecting the Light of Your Kingdom here on Earth.
“Keep us, Your children, born of water and the Spirit,
faithful to our calling as sons and daughters of God,
so that we, who share in the inheritance of Christ,
may always follow in His path of unselfish love and service.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,cf. Prayer, Baptism of the Lord (Roman Breviary)
who lives and reigns with You in unity with the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”