9 January 2022
Isaiah 42: 1-4,6-7 Titus 2: 14=17; 3:4-7 Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Theme: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the last major feast within the Christmas Season. It marks a transition moment in the life of Jesus, when he leaves behind the hidden years of his life in Nazareth and enters the public arena for the first time. Hence the liturgy shifts our focus from the baby in the manger to the adult Jesus about to embark on his messianic mission in the service of God’s reign. His first public act is to join with a group of his fellow Jews, listening to the preaching of his cousin, John, and accepting to be baptised by him in the Jordan river. It is at this time and place that God reveals him as his Son: ‘Then, while Jesus was praying, the heavens opened: the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove and a voice from Heaven was heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you”’(Lk 3: 21-22). For Jesus, this event marks the beginning of a journey that will take him from Capernaum to Jerusalem, from the hills of Galilee all the way to the hill of Calvary.
Jesus’ baptism, then, serves as a prologue to his public life and mission, manifesting his choice to be obedient to the will of His Father and his decision about the form his messianic vocation will take. He will not be the great military leader who will liberate his people from Roman domination that many of his contemporaries hoped. Instead, he will be a suffering servant, a gentle and peaceful leader, who will identify himself fully with the poor and oppressed of the land. Our first reading from Isaiah, a prophet who lived around 700 BC, gives us a vivid portrait of the kind of Messiahship Jesus will embrace. He will not shout out, ‘or make his voice heard in the streets’ (Is 42: 3). He will be kind and merciful to all who are oppressed and who bear heavy burdens. ‘He will not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame’ (Is 42:3). But he will be implacable in his pursuit of justice for the poor and exploited: ‘Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver nor be crushed until true justice is established on earth’ (Is 42:4). He will be a compassionate and merciful leader bringing healing and liberation to his people. His mission will be ‘to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those of live in darkness from the dungeon’ (Is 42:7). And he will be a light not just for the people of Israel but for all nations of the world.
Recalling the baptism of Jesus and what it meant for him and his messianic calling reminds us of our baptism and what it means for us. First, it reminds us of who we are and to whom we belong. By Baptism we become children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus. By baptism, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, we become temples of the Holy Spirit, members of the Body of Christ (the Church), and sharers in the priesthood of Christ [cf. CCC 1279].
The baptism of Jesus also reminds us of our missionary calling as beloved children of God. In acknowledging our own dignity as God’s children, we are called to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honouring them, loving them and serving them in all humility. We are challenged to live as children of God in thought, word and action so that our heavenly Father may say to each one of us what he said to Jesus: ‘You are my beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased’.
Our baptism commits us to live holy and transparent Christian lives and to grow in intimacy with God by personal and community prayer, by reading and reflecting on the Word of God, and by participating in the Eucharist and other sacraments. But it also commits us to continue the mission of Jesus to establish true justice on earth, to be co-creators with God in building up his Kingdom of compassion, justice and love, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Today it is appropriate for us to remember the graces we have received in Baptism and to renew our Baptismal promises. On the day of our Baptism, we were anointed with the oil of Chrism to show that we were consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father’s Anointed One. The candle lighted from the Paschal Candle was a symbol of the light of Faith which our parents and godparents passed on to us. This is, then, a day for us to renew our Baptismal promises, to consecrate ourselves anew to the Lord, ‘rejecting Satan and all his empty promises’. Let us ask the Lord to help us to be faithful to our baptismal promises. Let us thank him for the privilege of being joined to his mission in witnessing to the Good News by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.
Michael McCabe SMA, January 2022
To listen to an alternative Homily from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.