Scripture: Lectionary 21. Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 or Isaiah 55:1-11. Canticle Resp. Isaiah 12:2-3 4.5-6. Acts 10:34-38 or I John 5:1-9. Mark 1: 7-11:
“You are my beloved Son, on you my favor rests.” This verse of Mark 1:11 captures the important significance of the Baptism of Jesus, the Feast we celebrate after the Epiphany. God is saying this after the Holy Spirit has descended upon Jesus who was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The words of God are meant for us and we are privileged to experience and hear them at our own baptism in the name of the Trinity. All three persons are present at the baptism of Jesus and all three are invoked in the words and signs of the sacrament that initiates us into the Christ-life and helps us on our journey of faith at working toward conforming to Jesus. It is the key sacrament to a transformation into Christ. For we are all called to be “other Christs” to one another.
Even though we forget that call of our Baptism we are able to return to it through the other sacraments, especially that of Reconciliation. We are thus being prepared liturgically by this feast to begin anew in the journey of live with Jesus. Tomorrow the Ordinary Time of the liturgical year begins and we will have St. Mark’s Gospel as our scriptures for the liturgy of the word. We are thus in Year Two of the liturgical cycle.
Mark’s Gospel is the earliest written Gospel among the four. It probably was finished in the year 70 A.D. , the year in which Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman soldiers. This is a foundational writing for the New Testament and it has historical value besides the great spiritual value that it brings to us. The other Gospels will take many of its passages and even its outline while supplementing and adding to it with their own proclamations about Jesus and their unique theologies that strengthen the Gospels as a whole. We may think of they symbolically like the North, South, East and West which are similar but different in our experience.
In the reading from Mark today we are again hearing of the great prophet who unites both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the New Testament with his person and mission of baptizing. But the baptism of Jesus is something colossal in that we have an innocent person being baptized and he is the the Son of God! What a mystery and what a grace for us to learn from the rest of our lives. We are thus in need of baptism because of our failings of omission and commission. We are in need of it to learn how to be like Jesus. We are in need of it to be cleansed from the tantalizing proclivity to sin which we inherited from the beginning. Only humility and faith can help us to appreciate how great our immersion into Christ is. St. Paul helps us to understand our baptismal commitment: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life.: (Romans 6:3-4).
John’s humility and truth of his witness are great examples for our own motivation in following Jesus as his disciples. John even lets go of his own beloved disciples to follow Jesus.
We may wish to experience this day as a continuation of Christmas and of the manitfestations of Jesus (manifestationsofJesus (his baptism, the coming of the Magi, and the Wedding Feast of Cana). We keep the wonder, joy, and peace alive as Ordinary Time begins tomorrow. Amen.