Isaiah 42: 1 – 4, 6 – 7, Gospel – Luke 3: 15 – 1621 – 22
According to the Church’s Liturgical Calendar today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas Season. Unfortunately our culture has us celebrating Christmas months before December 25th and then ending it abruptly on December 26th. This is a pity for several reasons, one of which is that by beginning the celebration of Christmas so early we miss out on the beauty of the Advent Season which is a time of preparation, and it takes away the ability to celebrate for a couple of weeks after December 25th the great event of Jesus’ birth. This time following Christmas is much less hectic and does provide a time to truly reflect and enjoy the gift of Jesus to the world. With that said, let’s make the most out of today’s Feast by enjoying Christmas, even if the tree, lights and decorations have already been put away.
The title of this feast can lead us to looking at it through our experience of Baptism today. We picture the Baby Jesus being Baptized, just as babies today are Baptized. Part of our image of Jesus’ Baptism comes from the reality of it being celebrated a few weeks after we celebrated his birth. However 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, the 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 excitement 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.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.