The Baptism of the Lord
Reading 1 IS 42:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Psalm PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10.
Reading 2 ACTS 10:34-38
Alleluia CF. MK 9:7
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 3:15-16, 21-22
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord—January 12 & 13, 2019
This feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings an end to the Christmas season.
On Monday we begin Ordinary Time with the color green for over seven weeks
until March 6, Ash Wednesday, and the color becomes violet for the season.
The Baptism of the Lord was once part of the celebration of Epiphany, since both
events are seen as manifestations of Christ to the world. The Feast of the
Baptism of the Lord proclaims a theophany, a revelation or manifestation of the
divine Sonship of Jesus by his anointing and appointment to his messianic office.
For most people Christmas is a children’s celebration and a time for adults
to return to the innocence and joy of their childhood. The emphasis in both
secular and religious imagery on the Christ-child in Bethlehem reinforces this idea.
However, the Christmas feast of the Baptism of the Lord counterbalances that
notion. It reminds us that the child in the manger becomes an adult on mission,
and that mission will eventually lead not only to a feast filled with rich food and
choice wine but also to suffering and death, death on a cross.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote “The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the
anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross, and it is the symbol of the entire
sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of
humanity. . .
There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our
baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened to indicate that the Savior has
opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth of
water and spirit accomplished in Baptism.
In it we are inserted into the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, the Church, we
die and rise with him, we are clothed with him, as the apostle Paul often
emphasized. The commitment that springs from baptism is therefore ‘to listen’ to
Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will.
In this way everyone can tend to holiness, a goal that, as the Second
Vatican Council recalled, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized.”
If John’s baptism symbolized repentance, what need could Jesus have had
for it? This question troubled many in the first centuries of Christianity. All the
synoptic writers use an account of this event to introduce the major themes of
their Gospels. The fourth Gospel, meanwhile, leaves it out entirely, recording the
encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist but omitting any mention of Jesus’
Luke understood the baptism that John offered to be about more than
repentance. It was about making a public declaration of citizenship in God’s
coming kingdom. A conversion of heart was simply the necessary first step. Life
under God’s reign required a new heart and a new spirit, and such a life required
a clean break with the past. In Jesus’ case, no conversion was necessary for this
public declaration. Baptism revealed instead his true nature as God’s beloved
Luke portrays Jesus’ baptism as one of the “advancements in wisdom” that
he experienced throughout his life. Luke links Jesus baptism closely to his
promise at Nazareth to bring glad tidings to the poor and proclaim a year
acceptable to God. At his baptism, Jesus experienced divine love with new
intensity; he responded to that gift with such fierce passion that his subsequent
life and death transformed the world.
This same love is available to transform us today. Any who, like Christ,
confess themselves publicly to be citizens of God’s kingdom will find in that
declaration a love no fear can extinguish. The divine love that renews an
individual believer has, within that believer’s response, the power to bring an
entire community to new life.
When I baptize I like to envision a dove coming down on the one to be
baptized and a voice coming from above saying you are my beloved son or
daughter, in you I am well pleased.
The artist Picasso created the emblem of a dove with an olive branch in its
beak for the first World Peace Congress held shortly after World War II. Speaking
before the Congress, he testified, “I stand for life against death; I stand for peace
against war. ”As baptized Christians, how do we stand for life and peace?
Doves are known for their self-sacrifice, especially in caring for their young.
A mother will cease foraging for her own food just before her babies are born to
ensure purer milk for her offspring. Her self-imposed starvation protects them
from contamination and gives them the greatest chance for survival. Too often
today, we measure the greatness of our country by what it produces, not by
whom it protects. We must protect the unborn, the weak, the sick, the young,
and the old.
The dove at Jesus’ baptism carried the energy of promise. It was the
promise that following Jesus would lead to true peace and empowering justice. It
is the promise that each of us is beloved by God and that we will experience God’s
presence in each other. Our baptismal call is to live as if we believe those