The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or 55:1-11
Acts 10:34-38 or 1 John 5:1-9
The Exodus is the central event — the turning point — of the Jewish faith. One becomes fully Jewish only as they cross the Red Seas, as they experience the Exodus. The Exodus is remembered daily in Jewish prayers and celebrated annually at the feast of Passover. The Exodus is not a single completed historical event. It transcends history to become a revelation that human beings are meant to be free, endowed with dignity as children of God.
It is a sad fact of our Christian lives that we rarely give thought to, much less celebrate, our baptism. Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, a day that calls us to remember our baptism, our own exodus. The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan marks the beginning of his commission from God. This is the turning point in the life of Jesus. Now he begins his public ministry. Now, standing hip-deep in the muddy waters of the Jordan, he demonstrates his solidarity with us mud-caked sinners.
This is a Trinitarian moment. Here the Father and the Spirit bear witness to the Son. And here, the voice from heaven declares, with clear allusions to Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1, that Jesus is God’s anointed one, the messiah and the suffering servant. This fusion of messiah and servant perfectly expresses the dual nature of the mission and work of Jesus.
Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus, messiah and servant, humbled himself to pass through Jordan’s waters in order to lead the baptized through a new exodus — opening up the promised land of heaven for all who will follow him.
At our baptism, we too cross of the Red Sea, a moment that transcends time. Just as Jesus was consecrated and empowered for his mission through his baptism, so too are we commissioned by our baptism as children of God to daily remember and celebrate our exodus, our turning point. It is the Trinity that bears witness to our mission. As anointed servants, we are called invite others to join us in following the new Moses who leads us from the slavery of sin and into the Promised Land, the land of our inheritance.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.