Is. 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps. 29; Acts 10:34-38; Mk. 1:7-11
(Audio recorded live, 10 January 2021)
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which marks both the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. The Baptism of the Lord, like Christmas, marks a particular moment in the life of our Blessed Lord, namely, the beginning of his public ministry. That is why Ordinary Time tends to focus on the events that took place during the years he walked with his disciples, healing them, teaching them, and ultimately giving his life for them, and indeed the whole world. The reason we call it Ordinary Time, by the way, is from the Latin for ordinal numbers, which are simply sequential numbers, like first, second, third, etc., therefore, during Ordinary Time, we tend to read the Gospel in order from beginning to end.
Since we are reading from lectionary cycle B, we will be following the Gospel of Mark throughout the year. Mark was the first Gospel to be written; it is also the shortest Gospel. So, there will be some Sundays when passages are used from other Gospels. Nevertheless, many of the other Gospel authors were familiar with Mark’s Gospel, having incorporated many elements of it into their own. The Baptism of the Lord is one such event.
Each of the Gospels mention John the Baptizer in varying degrees, and each of the Gospels show how John was not only a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” he is also one who gives testimony to the Lord. In other words, John the Baptist, in his role as a prophet, identifies the Messiah, saying, “One mightier than I is coming after me…I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus is a sign that he is the one John proclaimed.
What does Jesus’ baptism mean for us? In his preaching on the significance of Christ’s baptism, the 5th century bishop St. Maximus of Turin once said:
“Someone might ask, ‘Why would a holy man [such as Jesus] desire baptism?’ Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.”
And so, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, let us call to mind our own baptism. Had not God taken upon himself our humanity in Christ, we would have remained astranged from him. But, through his own humanity and his own baptism, the gates of heaven have been thrown open so that all who are bathed in the waters of baptism may enjoy eternal blessedness with the Father. We do well to reflect on the awesome meaning of our own baptism, our belonging to Christ, and our relationship to one another because of Him. It is in this great mystery that we have all become brothers and sisters in Christ; sons and daughters of the Father.
Given during the COVID-19 pandemic.