Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord

Mon, 10 Jan 22 Lectio Divina - Year C

Is 40: 1-5,9-11, Tit 2:11-14;3:4-7, Lk 3:15-16,21-22

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church, this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved men to sentiments of repentance and induced them to confess their sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the "substance of our flesh" and was recognized "outwardly like unto ourselves", He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world".

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ's baptism are symbolic of what happened at our Baptism. At Christ's baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the "Beloved Son" of the Father; at our Baptism, we become the adopted sons of God. At Christ's baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism, we must pray to avoid actual sin.

We enter the Christian community through baptism. We enter this new year of gathering together as that community by our being offered the feast of celebrating the baptism of Jesus. While within the influence of the Christmas graces, we are being introduced to Him as alive and beginning His New Year.

We prepare for this celebration by recalling our own and our deep desires to be a part of His growing up. Each of us who will be at the Eucharistic gathering has been on the same journey from baptism through growing up and out. Much is asked of us and we in turn ask much of God Who calls us. We pray for the simplicity of the heart which is cleansed and inspired through water and the Holy Spirit. We may pray with the events of living that New Life and how we have extended the New Light through our years.

The white garment of our own baptisms may be less white as our hair grows whiter. Each time we enter the Eucharistic community’s celebration we renew our baptisms by signing ourselves with holy water recalling the words by which we were initiated into that holy assembly. Water cleanses and the Holy Spirit enlivens. We re-enter the gathering to celebrate that Christ’s saving action in the Eucharist reminds us of the community no matter how stained our pasts may be. We are re-blessed to be re-sent no matter how white our hairs may be.  

 First Reading Is 40: 1-5,9-11

 Our First Reading is the first of the four Servant Songs from the Book of Consolation, Second Isaiah. Israel as a nation is referred to also as the Servant of the Lord. What we hear seems to be an exact prediction of a special person of history who will assist God in caring for the people and nation of Israel itself. This person will have God as his support. This person will have qualities of justice, calmness of spirit and action.

There is a strong sense of the messiah in this reading. Justice will be his theme and by his teaching, those physically and spiritually blind will see and those in various conditions of confinement will be liberated. All the songs, poems, predictions and reflections of these chapters from Second Isaiah are meant to encourage the people to have hope as they wait for freedom from exile. Here they are inspired by the prophet who tells them of the coming of someone who will actually bring justice, hope and freedom to their lives.

All human life is warfare; the Christian life is the most so, but the struggle will not last always. Troubles are removed in love when sin is pardoned. In the great atonement of the death of Christ, the mercy of God is exercised to the glory of his justice.

Isaiah 40:1-11 can be described in one word: “Comfort”. This text is a word of tenderness after a very long and dark night of judgment. The text is clear about one thing though. What happened to Jerusalem happened because of the city’s sin: “she has received from the Lord’s hand double in exchange for all her sins”. But, as is often the case, the violence got out of hand. The reference here to “double” likely refer to excessive violence on the part of the Babylonians, a risk that God takes when employing empires in the execution of God’s will. The “comfort” that Isaiah 40:1-11 offers, then, is not only an attempt to restore hope to Yhwh’s relationship with Israel, it is also an acknowledgment on Yhwh’s part that the judgment went too far, wells beyond what Yhwh intended. Isaiah 40:1-11 seeks to convince its audience that the season of God’s hiddenness has come to an end.

Hope is a force for life. When we lose hope and feel abandoned, we believe that life has no value. If comfort is going to come to us at all, it needs to begin by confronting all that is wrong with life. Comfort comes not to those who deserve a reward but instead to those who have already felt the pain and the sting of where sin can lead you in life.

  Second reading Tit 2:11-14;3:4-7

The second reading is focused upon what God is about: “The grace of our Saviour God has appeared to all people”, so that “we are waiting for our happy hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. And the effect of God’s action is that “made righteous by his free gift, we become heirs in accordance with the hope of life eternal”.

Titus presents God’s unfolding plan of salvation in terms of two appearances of Jesus, two epiphanies or manifestations of God’s presence. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all”. Jesus’ first appearance manifested God’s grace, and his second coming will manifest God’s glory, for “we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. 

The author is concerned that good order and good conduct in the household reflect well upon the Christian community and its message. This does not mean that 21st century Christians need to replicate the social structures of the first or second century. Yet we need always be concerned about how our words and actions reflect on the church and either help or hinder our God-given mission. Quarreling, divisiveness, and judgmental attitudes, for instance, have done much to damage our credibility and obscure the gospel.

 Gospel Lk 3:15-16,21-22

 The Gospel is the first person-to-person meeting described in scripture between John the Baptist and Jesus. They had met womb-to-womb when Mary visited John’s mother, Elizabeth. John here is carrying out his mission of righteousness by pouring the water of purification upon those seeking cleansing in the Jordan.

Jesus presents Himself for this ministry and John wants Jesus to not ask for baptism. John is not worthy, but Jesus asks to have the law fulfilled. When the Law has been fulfilled and Jesus emerges from the waters of the Law, Jesus sees and hears Who He is to the Father. He is the one in whom the Father is well-pleased. It is now public and God’s Spirit will urge Him to His staying faithful to this New Law of living according to the Spirit. His identity will be challenged and others will doubt, but Jesus Himself will not shout out in the streets but present the gentleness and justice of God. He will not quench the small flames nor bruise a tender reed, but give breath and life for the light and life of all.

We are baptized into Jesus’ being the Beloved of the Father. We are equally baptized into our being sent to extend Jesus's life and Spirit into this world. The likelihood is that we are already living that grace. We always want more of all good things. We want more of God’s good spirit. We have been immersed in it and it is good on this day of Jesus’ Baptism to reflect on the truth of how we are extending his Light, hearing and speaking his goodness and keeping our garments clean. We are invited to hear ourselves what Jesus heard from the day of his baptism until his death, we are beloved and God is well-pleased with us as we try.

Now, in the mystery of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, we again encounter and represent the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and His manifestation as the Christ. Jesus’ Baptism is in fact His definitive manifestation as the Messiah or Christ to Israel, and as the Son of the Father to the entire world. Here we find the dimension of the Epiphany which was His manifestation to all nations. The Father’s voice from heaven shows that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows the Trinitarian nature of the Christian God. The true and unique God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shows Himself in Christ, through Him, with Him and in Him.

The Baptism in the Jordan returns to the great Christmas theme of ‘Christification,’ Jesus of Nazareth's spiritual anointing, His presentation as the Anointed One par excellence, the Messiah or the One sent by the Father for the salvation of mankind. The Spirit that descended on Jesus shows and seals in an incontrovertible way the ‘Christification’ of Jesus’ humanity that the Word had already fulfilled from the first moment of His miraculous conception by Mary. Jesus, from the very beginning, was always the Lord’s Christ, He was always God. Yet, His one, true humanity, that which is perfect in every way, as the Gospel records, constantly grew in natural and supernatural perfection. ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with men’. In Israel at 30 years of age, one reached full maturity and therefore could become a master. Jesus came of age and the Spirit, descending and remaining on Him, definitively consecrated His whole being as the Christ.

What conversion of mind, heart, and life is the Lord asking of me? John tried to prevent him. What obstacles keep me from following Jesus wholeheartedly? How do my actions prevent others from coming to Christ? Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. What commandments of God do I struggle to follow? How can I help to create a culture of justice and righteousness? He came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him. When have I experienced God’s majesty and power? What do I hope that heaven will be like?

Father, in Christ’s baptism in the Jordan, You worked signs and wonders to manifest the mystery of the new washing. Your voice was heard from heaven to awaken faith in the presence among us of the Word-made man. Your Spirit was seen as a dove resting upon Him and consecrated Your Servant with a priestly, prophetic and royal anointing so that all would recognize Him as the Messiah, sent to bring to the poor the good news of salvation.