Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baptism of Our Lord

Dear All,

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord represents both the end of the Christmas Season as well as the First Sunday in Ordinary time.  While in our time barely two weeks have elapsed since Christmas, the timeline of our Gospel stories has fast forwarded by over 30 years, presenting us Jesus as adult at the beginning of his public life.   We hear the same story told from three different time perspectives. 

First in the post-exilic Isaiah, from which we have been reading throughout Advent and Christmas, the prophet provides comfort to a broken people, after the Israelite’s return from Babylonian Captivity in one of the so called Songs of the Suffering Servant … Isaiah prophesied a Messiah who would not be a military commander but one who would suffer and die for the people.

Then Mark in the Gospel describes the Baptism by John of Jesus in the Jordan.   When John the Baptist says that he is not worthy to loosen the thongs of the sandals of the one coming after him, it is to be understood in context of the customs of desert Palestine two thousand years ago.  The slave, the lowest member of the household, loosened the thongs of the sandals of the visitors before they entered all smelly from walking in the desert.  John means that he is even less worthy than the lowest member when it comes to the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Lastly in our Second Reading from Acts of the Apostles, Peter tells about Jesus’ public ministry and how He went about healing all those oppressed by the devil beginning after the baptism that John preached.  It is one more of the many places in the New Testament where Gentiles become part of the chosen people, when Peter states to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, who is not a Jew, that every nation is acceptable to God.

From today’s message three things can be seen:

1. The Lord humbling himself before John the Baptist is the traditional emphasis of uniting the feast to Christmas.  The Son of God humbled Himself to such a degree that He was born in a manger.  He humbled Himself accepting the baptism of John even though He was sinless.  Christ refused to consider Himself better than anyone.

2.  The Lord empowered by the Spirit to begin the mission of the Father signals in Mark the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  This aspect of the baptism is emphasized by the Eastern Church, of both rites, orthodox and catholic.

3.  Isn’t it all about Change? … a very current term/concept these days in the US, particularly.  We are no different than the people of Jesus' time.  Those who stood before John the Baptist were sick of a world full of cruelty, persecution, and war.  They wanted a change and they wanted to do something about this immediately.  And we know what they did:  They repented their own sins.  They recognized that the world is not going to change unless they change.  Jesus saw this and joined them.  The Man of Peace accepted the baptism of John because He also wanted the world changed. Then Jesus began His public life saying that the Kingdom of God, the New Order, is upon us.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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