Readings: Is 40:1-5,9-11; Titus 2:11-14;3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16,21-22
Baptized, anointed, revealed and commissioned to give comfort to God’s people are some of words and phrases that help us to understand the Solemnity we celebrate this Sunday - the Baptism of the Lord. The first reading from Isaiah is a prophecy: the promise of good news that salvation is on the way. It is also about the commissioning of God’s messengers who are then sent to announce the Good news: “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” The reading speaks of a voice that cries out in the desert, exhorting God’s people to be ready for their salvation from exile. The people are urged to remove every obstacle by preparing the way of the Lord. That sounds like an Advent theme. Yes, it is an Advent theme, ushering in the fulfillment of the promise of salvation which is at the very heart of the Christmas message. The promise of salvation is fulfilled in the Gospel passage that moves us from anticipation of the coming of the Messiah to His manifestation when Christ is baptized, anointed and revealed. What happens at the Baptism of Jesus by John reveals Jesus and fulfills the promise. But the event also raises the question of why Jesus had to be baptized since he had no sin. One reason given is that God wanted Jesus to begin his ministry 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. Jesus knew what it was to be human. Thus Jesus is the one who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of bringing salvation to the nations. The dove that descends upon Him symbolizes the nature of His mission as an agent of peace and reconciliation in the world. Jesus is the one who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of comforting God’s People and speaking tenderly to them. He is the one who heralds the good news of salvation; the one who comes like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care. The reading from Titus proclaims the same mystery of the appearance of Jesus and promises future fulfillment of salvation. Jesus is thus “the grace of God” that has appeared, saving all…” and justifying us by his life, God’s grace. Jesus is the “kindness and generous love of God” that has appeared because of God’s mercy. He saves us and renews us by the Holy Spirit.
All three readings therefore clearly announce that the Lord is coming; the Lord has come and that the Lord will continue to come. That is where we come in. First we are given the good news that our salvation is not only coming, but already here in Christ anointed and sent by the Father to comfort His people; to shepherd them, nourish them and lead them with compassion. By virtue of our baptism we become messengers: anointed, commissioned and sent by Christ to continue his presence and proclaim his good news of salvation until he comes again. In this Year of Faith, we must proclaim that good news with conviction by living lives that manifest the presence of Christ in our lives. We must be the good news of salvation to those alienated; those caught up in the web of modernity and postmodern values of satisfying human desires only; those that question the fact that you still go to Church. May they at last be led by our example to come back to the faith and find joy and fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The message we take home is threefold. 1) The Baptism of the Lord is the fulfillment and manifestation of God’s promise of salvation revealed in Jesus at His Baptism. 2) We celebrate Jesus who is anointed and sent by the Father to proclaim God’s good news of salvation: mercy, compassion and forgiveness. 3) By virtue of our baptism we become Christ’s messengers: anointed, commissioned and sent to continue his presence and proclaim his good news of salvation until he comes again.
©2019 John S. Mbinda