January 10: The Baptism of the Lord Year C
Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-5,9-11; Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
Baptized, anointed, and doing good are some of words and the phrases we hear in the readings of today as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. But immediately we face the question of why Jesus was baptized since he had no sin. One reason given is that God wanted Jesus to begin his ministry (mission) by symbolically identifying himself with sinful humanity in order to save it. Jesus therefore identified with humanity not as a sinner, but as a fellow human being. At the same time, the divinity of Jesus is manifested through that baptism by John in the river Jordan. As Jesus comes out of the water, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. Then a voice from heaven was heard saying: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”. This baptism as recounted in the Gospel reading by Luke, signifies the anointing of Jesus by the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s commissioning of Jesus for his mission that begins thereafter.
According to St. Paul in the second reading, tells us that we are saved by “the bath of rebirth and renewed by the Holy Spirit” who transforms us into witnesses of Christ’s mission. In the words of the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus “like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” Thus Jesus is the one who comes and for who the people must prepare themselves. The dove that descends upon Jesus symbolizes the nature of his mission as an agent of peace and reconciliation in the world. This Sunday, as we celebrate Jesus' Baptism, we are reminded of our Baptism. This challenges us to reflect on the meaning of our own baptism. There are 3 important aspect of baptism. 1) Baptism is an incorporation into the Church, whereby through the waters of baptism one becomes a member of the Church in the presence of other members. Ideally, baptism should take place during the Sunday Mass, but for pastoral reasons that is not possible in large parishes. 2) Baptism is a call to discipleship. That is why non baptized adults go through a period of catechumenate (period of gradual initiation into Christian life) in order to make sure they know what that call is about. The call to discipleship includes not only prayer and good works, but also the preparedness to give one’s life in witness for Christ. 3) Baptism is a commissioning whereby the baptized are made sharers of the Church’s mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Briefly, in the waters of baptism, we have been incorporated, called to discipleship and commissioned for God’s mission through the Church. The message we take home today is two-fold: 1) As disciples of Christ, we are called to live a life worthy of our calling; 2) By virtue of our baptism, we have been anointed and commissioned to give witness to the Lord by being agents of God’s compassion, peace and reconciliation in the world.
©2010 John S. Mbinda