BAPTISM OF THE LORD (YEAR A)
PASTORAL VISIT TO CHRIST THE KING'S PARISH, ONITSHA
Last Sunday, we celebrated the Epiphany. The Baptism of the Lord is one of his epiphanies, in fact the very first of his epiphanies. God has manifested himself in the humanity of his incarnate Son. The Baptism of Jesus brings out his identity and mission.
Let us look at the Readings.
First Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7
This text which is the first of the Servant songs in second Isaiah gives us a portrait of a true servant of God. His humility, gentility, and dedication to his mission of peace are highlighted. This passage deeply interprets the Gospel narrative of Our Lord’s Baptism. For example, the heavenly voice at the baptism; “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased” (cf. Matt. 3:17) is almost the same with the phrase “in whom my soul delights” (cf. Isa. 42:1). “chosen one” also means the same as “Beloved Son”. It was a description of the Messiah as we read in Psalms (Ps. 2:7).
The original identity of this ideal son and servant has been much disputed. Some think it is Israel, others suggest that it may be a faithful remnant, an individual figure, a prophet or a king. But today at his baptism the answer is clear. The servant is identified with Jesus who is manifested as such in his baptism.
2nd Reading: Acts 10: 34-38.
To teach the gentile Cornelius – one of the first gentile converts, Peter began with Jesus’ Baptism. This gives us a picture of what Baptism was in the eyes of the early Christians. Like Jesus, the baptized is anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power. God acts in Jesus in his preaching, anointing and performance of his miracles. Jesus is the act of God and the epiphany of his saving presence.
3rd Reading: Gospel: Matt. 3:13-17
The Gospel gives us St. Matthew’s account of the Baptism of Jesus. Jesus was baptized by John. The sinless one joined sinners and was baptized. His identity was revealed and his mission defined. The power for his mission was given to him. The dialogue between John and Jesus was revealing indicating that Jesus came to fulfill God’s purpose in salvation history. Jesus’ submission to John was part of God’s plan so that Jesus would be manifested as the true Servant of Yahweh – who is now about to embark on his work – his divine mission.
Matthew’s narrative is very clear. God addresses the people and makes Jesus identity and mission known. The servant prophesied in 2nd Isaiah is presented in Jesus.
The Servant of God who has his spirit will bring justice to the nations and be a light to the nations. Note that this is the first of the four passages called the Servant Songs. This servant is a special figure, an agent of God’s compassion and love, extending his compassionate care.
This figure has such titles as ‘my servant, in whom my spirit dwells. Very few were called servants in the Bible. Such people like Abraham (cf. Gen. 26:24); Moses (Num. 12:17) Caleb (Num. 14:14); Job (Job 1:8). Generally, these are men chosen by God in whom God is pleased. The servant is endowed with God’s own spirit as we see in the prophets, kings and judges. Therefore, those who so receive God’s spirit eventually become agents of his divine actions. This particular servant will be agent of peace and a light to the nations. Yet he will carry out his functions in a most unique way without violence and with tenderness and love.
The Manifestation of God in Christ.
In the house of Cornelius, Peter observed that God shows no partiality. His salvation is universal. Peter stressed the power evident in Jesus ministry having been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. Jesus cast out devils and demons from the afflicted. He mixed up with the unclean in order to heal and clean them. Peter is doing just the same in the spirit of the revelation that God shows no partiality. The Spirit of God is working.
A time of Decision
Jesus takes a decision. He leaves the security of his home and heads to the river for baptism. Decision involves renunciations. When we choose one, automatically we reject the other. Jesus needed to start work. He must leave Mary and go.
The theophany of the Blessed Trinity – The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, takes place manifestly for the first time.
What was the purpose for which Jesus was identified and commissioned?
Jesus publicly enters and identifies with God’s plans so that God’s purposes would be fulfilled.
What do we learn from these?
Why was Jesus baptized?
i. In the first place, to teach us humility and good example.
ii. Again he needed to be identified so that he can go into his mission.
iii. He sanctified the world waters in order to begin the new creation – by baptism through water and the Holy Spirit.
iv. The Three Divine Persons, the Blessed Trinity, were manifested through the Baptism of Jesus – when the Father spoke, the Spirit appeared and the Son submitted himself. Therefore, the Trinity celebrated the gift of baptism they were giving to us in Christ Jesus.
v. As Moses entered the water of the Red Sea to lead the old Israel to the Promised Land, so Jesus entered the Jordan to lead us to heaven our promised home.
What are we being called to do?
1. We are called to take our own decisions, to believe in the Son, get baptized and live the life of the Son through the Spirit: a life of repentance, a life of renunciation of evil, a life guided by the Spirit like the servant who has the Spirit of God.
2. In our own Baptism, we are anointed with the Holy Oil of salvation to live as members of Christ’s Body who was anointed prophet, priest and king.
3. What the servant of God brings to the nations according to Isaiah – though without noise, gently, calmly and respectfully answers their longings, brings them justice, peace and light. We are called to do the same by our baptism and confirmation.
So be it. Amen.