Gospel – Mark 1:7-11
The Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas Season. In a few short weeks we have gone from the baby in the manger to the thirty-year-old Jesus preparing to begin his ministry. This Baptism of Jesus by John was not Baptism as we understand it as a Sacrament of Initiation that takes away Original Sin and makes us members of God’s family. At the time of Jesus when baptism was spoken of it was an act of repentance. This was an act in which the Israelites would take on God’s judgment as a sign of their desire individually and as a people to repent of their offenses against the covenant. The Covenant of Moses took place in the Sinai dessert and John the Baptist follows that significant event in Israelite history by performing his ministry in the wilderness of Judea. Jesus comes to take part in this ritual not because he was a sinner and was repenting, but as a sign that he would ultimately be the one who takes away the sins of the world. The Baptism that Jesus gives to us and that we celebrate as a Sacrament is not merely a sign, but it is the actual forgiveness of sin and adoption into God’s family.
There are two important elements of the passage we hear today, the message of John the Baptist, and the manifestation of the Trinity at Jesus’ Baptism by John. John’s message is not only a call to repent; it is a call to get ready for the Messiah. He is preparing the way for the Lord and in humility announces that one mightier than he is coming. John had disciples as well as other followers. Human nature would tempt him to maintain his ministry and enjoy the attention and fame, but John did not give into this temptation. Without hesitation he pointed his disciples and followers to Jesus. We are told elsewhere in Scripture that some left John in order to follow Jesus. John is for us a model of humility. The second element is that of the manifestation of the Trinity at Jesus’ Baptism. Jesus, the Father’s son and second person of the Trinity stands in the Jordan while John Baptizes. As Jesus emerges from the water we are told that, “the Spirit, (the third person of the Trinity) like a dove, descended upon him.” Finally, there is the beautiful manifestation and revelation by the Father, the First person of the Trinity. The voice of the Father is heard speaking directly to Jesus and saying, “You are my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.”
I think that our Heavenly Father says the same thing about everyone who is Baptized. At Baptism each of us becomes a beloved son or daughter of our loving, heavenly Father. How could the Father not be pleased? Our challenge is to maintain that relationship so that as the Father continues to be pleased. We can begin by following the example of John the Baptist and living lives of true humility. That is in acknowledging that we are not the Messiah or Lord, only Jesus is, and it is he who should be first in our lives. It is a humility in which we acknowledge the gifts and talents we have, and the particular vocation or call God has given us. John in his humility did not shy away from his call to be the prophet who announced the coming of the Messiah, and he did not hold back in using his preaching gift to proclaim this. The same should be true with us. If we begin to live truly humble lives, we will surely be beloved sons and daughters of the Father in whom he is well pleased.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.