Baptism of the Lord

Baptism of the Lord

Gio, 07 Gen 21 Lectio Divina - Anno B

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7,Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10,1 John 5:1-9,Mark 1:7-11

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized not because he is a sinner but because he wants to be in solidarity with us especially in our journey towards the Kingdom of God. That he is with us and is one of us. Furthermore, the baptism of Jesus is more of a revelation of who he is and what his mission should be. As William Barclay writes: “So in the baptism there came to Jesus two certainties–the certainty that he was indeed the chosen One of God, and the certainty that the way in front of him was the way of the Cross.”. The Christmas season has ended. It is a transition, a turning point in the church year. We have set aside for another year the Christmas carols where we sing of the “holy infant, so tender and mild.” We have put away nativity sets in our homes and churches.

As we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of the necessity of baptism concerning our salvation and the mission entrusted to us when we were baptized in the Lord. Is baptism really necessary? Yes

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we hear the prophet Isaiah’s words of God’s servant. We celebrate how Jesus uniquely fulfilled those words, and we claim those words as true for all the baptized, too. We, too, are called for the victory of justice. We, too, are called to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out of confinement. We, too, are called to know ourselves as beloved, to know ourselves as sent out in a mission to proclaim the good news.

Chapter 55 recapitulates many themes found in the preceding chapters. It begins with the imagery of food and drink and moves on to the restoration of the Davidic line. The poem then exhorts the audience to seek God, ending with a reflection on the unknown of God. The language is powerful, evidenced by the number of contemporary worship songs that use phrases from this poem.

 Chapter 55 can be read as the poet’s final exhortation. The poem begins by contrasting real food, with a promise of something better. Real food (which does not satisfy) is akin to any tangible wealth: money, luxury goods, financial security, etc. Verses 1-2 exhort the people to recognize that the tangible wealth that they enjoy in Babylon is nothing compared to the rewards God has in store if they return.

The poem ends with their experience of God. For this audience, God’s ways are surprising and, ultimately, unknowable. In most other Old Testament texts, the notion of God’s unpredictability is linked to tragic events. Here, however, that unknown is tied to a joyful occasion, which was perhaps even more unpredictable than the original defeat. Isaiah 55 was written at a time when people felt anything was possible. This is the voice that reminds us that, although things do not always turn out as we plan, sometimes, just sometimes, they turn out wildly better.

1 John 5:1-9

We hear the assurance from First John that we, too, in our shared faith in Christ, are begotten of God. And that this faith in Christ makes us victorious. He writes that this faith is world-conquering . . . world-conquering! These promises challenge us not to play small but to imagine expansively, to vision with holy boldness.

 In this passage, John repeats what he said throughout the letter: you who believe appreciate what you have. Do not underestimate the step you took in accepting Christ. The whole world is under the power of the evil one. As has already been mentioned, this world belongs to God, who made it good. It is the first place where the evil one competes with God

Mark 1:7-11

Today’s readings focus on the circumstances leading up to the first coming of Jesus, the event which sets the pattern for his coming to us now and at the end of time. The Gospel stresses the key role of Mary in the work of our salvation. In addition, today’s Scripture texts describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. They also tell us that God’s preparation for the coming of Jesus was full of surprises.

This Gospel opens with John the Baptist proclaiming that One mightier than he will be coming. The One who is to follow John also will baptize. However, He will baptize with the Holy Spirit, not simply with water.

 The Gospel says: it happened that Jesus came from Nazareth and asked to be baptized by John with water from the Jordan. As Jesus came out of the water, Mark says that the heavens were opened up and the Spirit descended upon Jesus! How very dramatic! However, it didn’t stop there. Mark tells us that a voice from heaven proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved Son. 

 We all yearn to be the “beloved” of someone! As human beings, we have an instinctive need to love others as well as a deep desire to be loved. Hopefully, each of us has many people in our lives who love and care for us. Who are the persons you love? And who loves you? What a great gift it is to be loved!

 All love flows from God’s love for us. Our love for one another is a “sharing” in the love of God!

As we listened to the reading, we witnessed the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John. With all of the wonder surrounding Jesus’ birth, and the certainty that this extraordinary child has grown to be an extraordinary man, it seems strange that Jesus would choose to be baptized by John – yet this baptism continues to help us unravel the mystery of who Jesus is. As John baptized Jesus, Mark tells us, Jesus saw “the heavens are torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, my Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.” At this point, if we had not already believed so, we would have known that Jesus is no ordinary person and that Jesus’ acceptance of John’s baptism is yet another event that heralds the dawn of the messianic era and tells us that the new world is finally to come into being.

Now we see Jesus as an adult beginning his public ministry, baptized by his cousin John, anointed by the Holy Spirit, commissioned to bring forth justice to the nations. This is the beginning of a new season. This is a new moment in salvation history. Jesus begins his public life by proclaiming God’s reign, announcing to all that God is doing something new.

 Since March of last year, our individual and collective lives have shifted. The pandemic crisis brought a reordering of our daily rhythms. It made even more apparent how fragile and interconnected we are and the disparities in our society which make some more vulnerable to the virus than others. Now, the long-awaited vaccine is being distributed. Though there are still dark days ahead and it will take more time before precautions like masks, physical distancing, and avoiding gatherings can safely be put aside, that change is coming. We are shifting.

In reflecting on the pandemic, Pope Francis recently wrote:

This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities—what we value, what we want, what we seek—and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that affect their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.

The gift of so much disruption, of lives being turned upside down, is that it can shake us out of complacency, out of long-held, tired assumptions. Out of the crisis of pandemic comes not just grief, but also a possibility. Not just trauma, but also clarity about what is really important.

As we begin to transition out of pandemic life, rooted in belovedness and victorious faith, can we dare to allow God to dream within us, to create something new—in ourselves, our homes, our churches, our nation, our world?

Through baptism, we are born into the wonder and mystery of God, set free from our tendency towards sin and isolation and welcomed into a community of believers. Through baptism, we can rejoice in the many gifts that God gives to us and come to know the supreme Love that surrounds us. These gifts stretch beyond the bounds of this life and lead us into eternal life – back to our home with God. This call to live in God’s love through baptism does not end at the moment that we receive the sacrament, but extends beyond that moment and impels us to receive others as Christ would receive them and so build up the community of believers. It is our responsibility to share the love that we have received.

 The waters of baptism are the waters that change the face of our world. Baptism restores us into the right relationship with God and is the threshold of even greater things to come. This evening, as we remember the Baptism of Jesus, let us gratefully celebrate the great gift of God’s love to us and to our world by reaching out to others and helping them come to know Emmanuel – God is for us, God is with us, God is in us. How very blessed we are.

Today, let us renew the promises of our baptism. At this turning point, in this new season, let us dare to dream big, dare to create something new. May we be mindful of the people who love us and be grateful for the great gift they give us. And also today, may we be more intentional in our loving. If we “love” another person today, God is present there!