Jan 9, 2017

The Baptism of the Lord

"You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased"

Mk 1: 7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
'One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized your with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens:
'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'

With our Feast today, the Christmas season is officially ended and we begin the green journey again, Ordinary time, until the opening of the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday - March 1st this year. Obviously, in liturgical time we drastically condense the life of Jesus in order to understand the mysteries of his self-revelation to humankind.  Yesterday, on the Epiphany of the Lord, we met the Magi and the child Jesus.  Today, he is the 30 year old man who steps into the Jordan River before his cousin John the Baptist whose charismatic preaching in the desert region has brought out many of the curious and the repentant.

While John's baptism focused on repentance from sin and conversion of life, it is not surprising that when Jesus, whom John recognized as greater than he, stepped into line for baptism John was understandably confused: "I should be baptized by you" John stated in Matthew's version of the baptism.  Yet, our Lord submitted and by his action we are forever linked to his blessing of the water made holy with the power of his Spirit which comes upon all who are baptized.  Yes, we need to be washed clean of original sin, unlike Christ the sinless one, so Jesus' submission to baptism is our invitation to share in his life.  By baptism we are made members of his Body the Church and the seed of faith is implanted in our hearts.  Parents are responsible for the spiritual formation of their children and to work with the Church in that all important task.  As we grow and mature, we then take on that personal responsibility to open ourselves more fully to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus presents himself, then, to the world as the Magi recognize him, as he is baptized in the Jordan, and also as he works his first public miracle at the wedding of Cana when water is changed into wine. These three key moments uncover the mystery of God made human for us.

We are his ambassadors - baptized into his life and by our lives we witness to all he said and did and to his action which continues in and through the Church to this very day:  Christ baptizes; forgives sin; heals the sick, unites in holy marriage, ordains for service, anoints with his Holy Spirit in Confirmation and feeds us with his very own Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Almighty ever-living God, 
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son, 
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, 
may always be well pleasing to you.

(Opening Prayer of the Feast)