The Baptism of Our Lord January 11, 2009

Readings Is. 55:1-11; 1 Jn. 5:1-9; Mk. 1:7-11
Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of our Lord. Jesus the holy one, a person without the trace of sin in him submits to receive the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It was an act of humiliation, an act of public acceptance of being a sinner. In the liturgy of the Church this is the third great manifestation celebrated at Epiphany, revealing that our God had come among us in a very special way. A crowd of sinners, tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and prostitutes, came to be baptized by John. ‘Then Jesus comes to meet him. John the Baptist hesitates, but Jesus does insist and receives Baptism. This is the total identification of Jesus with the sinful human race. He identifies with them, not as a sinner but as a fellow human being. However, in order to understand what is happening at the River Jordan, we have to go far beyond seeing Jesus’ baptism as a matter of dealing with sinfulness. What is being really emphasized here is the positive element of Jesus being totally accepted and confirmed by his Father. As he steps out of the water, the heavens open and the Spirit of God comes down on Jesus to fill him with all God’s fullness. “This is my Son, the Beloved; in him I am deeply pleased.”
Today’s readings, rich in spiritual knowledge and understanding, are important for us Christians to perceive the Divine Will. Prophet Isaiah in the first reading invites the children of God, and calls those who thirst, to come to the waters. Water in the Bible symbolizes life and purification. Here the symbol of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in the Sacrament of Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the Divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As St Paul says, ‘by one Spirit we were all baptised,’ so we are also ‘made to drink of one Spirit.’ Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified. Therefore, the prophetic words of Isaiah were a call to those who longed for the greater spiritual things of life, for through faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism; we are born again, receiving the gifts of a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit. At the end of the reading the prophet tells us of the uniqueness of God. He says that our thoughts and ways are not God’s ways. God is holy! To seek God, we must embrace spiritual ways. To set our minds on the flesh is death, but to set our minds on the Spirit is life and peace.
In today’s Second Reading from the First Letter of John, we are told that those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah, they have been born of God. Those who love God the Father, they also love Jesus, the Son of God. Through our love for God and our obedience to His commandments, we show our love towards others who are also children of God. The reading concludes saying “The Spirit is the one who testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify; the Spirit and the water and the Blood, and these three agree.”
The Gospel scene is a touching scene where the environment of holiness persists and people of every possible are go to John to receive repentance. Jesus came to John to be baptised. At first there is the recognition scene of the two holy persons, Jesus and John. John tries to dissuade him saying that it is appropriate that Jesus should baptise John. But Jesus insists that he should be baptised by his cousin saying that we should all do what God requires us to do. Jesus had accepted by now God’s plan in its totality. He is the servant par excellence. He is now the devout servant of the father besides being his Son. There is the descent of the Spirit on Jesus and this Spirit will lead him henceforth every where to the desert to public life, to the cross. There are the words of the Father saying: you are my son, the beloved and in you I am well pleased. The manifestation of the Trinity is complete. God reveals himself to humanity and tells of his concern for humankind. The distance between heaven and earth has been bridged and God is now present in the world in and through Jesus.
The Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our own baptism. All of Jesus’ followers would be baptized and so Jesus too wanted to be baptized to show his unity with all of us. A new family was formed at Pentecost, the Church, and baptism was the means of entering the Church. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit when he was baptized in the Jordan and we are anointed with the oil of chrism during our baptism and like Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit also. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. We are told of this event in the Holy Bible in order that we may know that it is through the Sacrament of Baptism that the Holy Spirit descends upon us in order to transform us into new creations as children of God. Then, He begins the purifying process that sanctifies us to become in the likeness of Jesus.
The Sacrament of Baptism emphasizes this new relationship with our Father. The rite of Baptism indicates four signs in the sacrament that symbolize our relationship with God. Firstly the child is anointed with the oil of chrism. This is the holy oil used by the bishop to anoint us on the forehead during Confirmation and to anoint the hands of a priest during his Ordination as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King. Secondly the white garment is put on the child the outward sign of your Christian dignity. Thirdly a lighted candle is given to the parents, a symbol of receiving the light of Christ. Fourthly the ears and mouth of the child are blessed because they will hear the Word of God and the child will profess his/her faith.
God the Father spoke the words to his son: you are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased. The same words are spoken to us by the father on the day of our Baptism as speaks to us at every moment of our life. Each one of us is held in divine tenderness, clothed with dignity, anointed with the oil for service, witness and belonging. His care is delicate, perfect and touching and he looks after us as a father would care for his child. Indeed he is ever pleased with each one of us. Let us renew our baptismal promises and rededicate ourselves to the fulfilling of our God given mission on earth, to bear witness to him by our life example. Let us dedicate our lives to Jesus and his mission.

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