Isaiah 42: 1 – 4, 6 – 7; Gospel – Luke 3: 15 – 1621 – 22
The celebration of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas Season. For many people Christmas ended on December 26th, for others on January 6th or the Epiphany, today is our day to put aside our Christmas celebration for another year. It is time to take down the Christmas tree and the decorations, to stop singing Christmas carols, and return to our ordinary lives. On Monday we begin the Liturgical season of Ordinary Time. If perchance, you are one who ended the season a little early, take time today to sing one last Christmas Carol, and spend time looking through the remaining Christmas cards.
The Baptism of the Lord is an interesting Celebration, we tend to look at it through our experience of Baptism today. We picture the Baby Jesus being Baptized, just as babies today are Baptized. However, in a few short weeks we have moved from the manger in Bethlehem to the house in Nazareth. Jesus is now thirty years old and has left home to begin the mission for which he was born. The readings today point out how this was all part of God’s plan.
The reading from Isaiah is one of three “Servant-of-the-Lord” references found in Isaiah. The servant is described as one who is: chosen by God, pleasing to God, filled with God’s spirit, softly and gently bringing justice to the world. He is called the “victory of justice,” a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, giver sight for the blind, and freedom for prisoners. The servant is going to accomplish quite a bit. This passage is seen as a prophecy pointing to Jesus. When we look at the Gospels, all of these are fulfilled by Jesus.
The excitement of a new beginning grew during the past month as we heard accounts of the anticipation of Jesus’ birth, from the Immaculate Conception, to the Annunciation and the Birth of Jesus, something different and new was happening in the world. Those who were tuned in like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Simeon and Anna, all experienced the presence of God in a special way that drew them to acknowledge that with Jesus things would be different.
This is seen in the Gospel with the people filled with expectation. They sensed something was about to happen, they recognized John the Baptist as being part of it and mistook him for the Messiah. John corrects them and humbles himself to prepare them for Jesus. Jesus is the humble servant who waits until last to be baptized. At Jesus’ baptism there is the beautiful manifestation of the Trinity with the voice of the Father, and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus. With this perfect act of God’s love shared by the Trinity we have Jesus beginning his final preparation to do what the Father, from all eternity, planned on doing. God gives us the gift of himself in the person of Jesus to take away sin that separates us from Him. All of this takes place because of God’s love for us. Out Father is a merciful father.
The Baptism of Jesus is an opportunity to acknowledge the mercy and love God has for us. It may be the end of the Christmas Season but we are still at the beginning of this Holy Year of Mercy. May we reflect on and experience this love of God and the mercy that is so much a part of it throughout the year. May we hear the voice of the Father say of us, “You are by beloved son/daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.