Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or Isaiah 55:1-11
Acts 10:34-38 or 1 John 5:1-9
The Baptism of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It also marks the final day of Christmas season. Although there is only one reading with the gospel, several choices are offered. I have chosen Isaiah 55:1-11 and Mark 1:7-11.
The reading of Isaiah is a good ending/beginning reading. We hear hints of Lent: ‘Seek the Lord…turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous and forgiving’. It is also a reading included among those for the Easter Vigil, "Come to the Water". And there is the echo of Christmas, ‘I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.’
The gospel, in describing Jesus’ baptism also describes the meaning of his ministry. The Spirit descends upon Jesus as it did upon the people of Israel gathered around Mt. Sinai. Like Joshua leading Israel across the Jordan, Jesus leads this Exodus which will have its Passover in which a new people of God are born.
An ancient commentary on the first five books of the Bible says that these books begin and end with an act of loving kindness by God. "It is written in the beginning: God made for Adam and Eve garments of skin and clothed them; and it ends with an act of loving kindness for it is written: when Moses died God buried him in the valley of Moab". The commentator concludes, ‘Thus you should do likewise".
Tomorrow as we begin the yearly reading of Mark, we hear the first act of loving kindness by Jesus, the healing of a man possessed by an unclean spirit. We will come in the end of the gospel to the greatest act of loving kindness, the act that completes the meaning of all the miracles Jesus will perform, his dying on the Cross and his being raised up to life.
The Father and the Spirit are present at Jesus’ baptism, likewise on Calvary they are present. The final breath of Jesus bestows the Spirit upon all who will gather beneath the Cross, bringing a new people to life; the Father receiving the Son’s act of love and obedience.
This day of ending and beginning may we remember God’s acts of loving kindness that surround us. At Easter we will renew our baptisms. Now we follow Jesus, and we see the acts of loving kindness flowing from his ministry. Joined with Jesus as we are, in the power of the Spirit and loved by the Father may we live our baptisms. ‘Thus may we do likewise".
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.