for Sunday, January 10, 2016
The mystery of the Baptism of the Lord - with His Epiphany - are at the heart of our faith. These mysteries are less known in the Western Church than the mysteries of Christmas and Easter. In almost every way, the mysteries of the Epiphany and the Baptism are the same as the mystery of Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord. Christmas has enormous emotional overtones throughout the world and because of that, very often the mystery of salvation is forgotten.
Christmas in the Western Church is often caught up in present giving, in emotional feelings and in not so very good music. The Epiphany and the Baptism focus us on the meaning of Christmas: a Savior is born for us and revealed to the nations. The Epiphany focuses on this revelation to the nations when Christ is still a baby. The Baptism of Christ focuses us on this revelation at the beginning of His public ministry, the time of His Baptism by John.
There were lots of people flocking to John the Baptist to seek a way to be faithful to God. The baptism of Christ takes place in the context of people wondering if maybe John the Baptist is the "anointed one" who is to come and save the people. Jesus had already started to become recognized as a spiritual leader. When John the Baptist is baptizing and Jesus comes to be baptized, something most unusual happens and it is recorded in the Gospels: heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
This revelation of Jesus as Son of God is an epiphany in the full sense of the revelation of the baby Jesus as God and Savior. It is clear from the Gospel accounts that not everyone understood what was happening, but many realized that some very special happening was taking place.
The first reading today, from the Prophet Isaiah, explains what it means to be the beloved Son: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by a strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.
Jesus begins to fulfil this prophecy and begins his ministry with love, compassion, strength and by gathering the lambs with care.
The second reading, from the Letter to Titus, explains even further: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior.
As we are still beginning this Year of Mercy, we can see here one of the great scriptural references to mercy: God saves us through His mercy, not because of anything we have done.
We return to the scene of the Baptism of Christ. We are invited to recognize in Jesus not just a good man, not just a good teacher, not just a compassionate human being. No, we are invited to believe in Jesus as the one, unique and only God. And He has come to save us. If we are baptized in Him, let us share His mercy and walk with faith.
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: