The Baptism of the Lord

Almost two years later I am posting again on this great feast of the Baptism of the Lord—in my view, the third most important of the year, after Christmas (the Incarnation) and Easter (the Resurrection.) Christmas is a season to reflect about the humanity of Jesus. Fully human, but without sin, why does he have to be baptized by John, who had been preaching a baptism of repentance from Sin? Jesus does not need any cleansing, but created free, he has to explicitly and publicly accept his identity and mission. The same way Mary had to say yes to the message of the angel, Jesus grows in the understanding of who he is and what he is supposed to do. In the baptism, he takes a step forward and  embraces his call, his vocation as the Son of God.

This feast is an invitation to us to embrace our baptismal identity and re-activate our own baptism. Coming out of the water, God’s voice proclaims, “This is my beloved, in him I am well pleased.” Only that we would begin there, believing that despite our sins and shortcomings God loves us and we are His children.

In the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the liturgy—prayers and readings—unpacks for us the meaning of our baptismal identity. In the first reading, Isaiah invites us to be, like Jesus, people of justice and forgiveness, “a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench… a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement.” In the reading from Acts, Peter invites us to be, like Jesus, people who go “about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil.” The Preface invites us, like Jesus, to be Servants “anointed with the oil of gladness and sent to bring the good news to the poor”—and to be bearers of good news we have to be makers of good news first.

There is even a Eucharistic Prayer, seldom used, which is especially fitting for this Feast.  In the Eucharistic Prayer IV we recite also a description of Jesus that we want to imitate as a way to embrace our baptismal identity: “He shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy.”

Like Jesus, we, too, need to mark our own assent to this mission of justice, gladness and liberation. We need to re-enter the waters of baptism and please God by continuing the mission of His Son.

This powerful depiction of the Baptism of Jesus by Daniel Bonnell. Two of his paintings decorate Sacred Heart Church in Racine, WI. Used with permission. 


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