SUNDAY, FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD Reading 1: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 Here we are given a picture of a true servant of God. He is gentle and humble of heart, and totally dedicated to his mission, which is to bring about true justice. Reading 2: Acts 10:34-38 Here we are given a description of how the first Christians saw Baptism. The baptized person was said to have been ‘anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power’. Gospel: Mk 1:7-11 This tells how Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, and the signs that accompanied that baptism.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today, on the feast of the baptism of Jesus, we see unfolding the moment that John was really being prepared for all his life. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth soon after the angel Gabriel appeared to her with the news of the latter’s pregnancy, caused John as a baby to leap in the womb of his mother; and both John and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit. Today John takes his mission to its pinnacle.
John the Baptist, the last of the prophets and the ‘voice crying out in the desert’, is visited by Jesus while he is baptizing in the river Jordan. John baptizes Jesus with water on his request, and the Spirit comes down on him to show that the very Spirit that anointed John in the womb now brings the Father’s work to completion in Jesus Christ. John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and this Spirit is revealed to us here in the form of a dove.
Matthew records in his gospel narration the words of Jesus about John the Baptist: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Mt 11:11). When John says “I am not worthy to untie his sandals”, he reveals Jesus as God to us. John also teaches us something very important about our place before God. We are never worthy for him. We are never worthy enough to receive his grace. It is he who comes to us. We need to remind ourselves of this every time we are tempted to boast of our accomplishments, to be proud of our gifts and talents, status or position of authority. We like to be in control of everything – our life, our future, and at times even the people in our lives whom we try to control by the power of familial, social or legal authority we may enjoy over them. John has something special for us here. He who was declared as the greatest of the prophets by the Lord himself, is great in his humility.
The baptism of Jesus also marks the beginning of his public ministry. Jesus, in his human nature, receives the Holy spirit and is then led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted. He perseveres against Satan and does not give in to temptation. After this he begins his public ministry, a ministry of love, which turns the world upside down, or rather, right side up.
The dove, the symbol of peace, humility and grace is revealed to us here. But let us not be mistaken by this symbol. The dove is the Holy Spirit and it is powerful. The Holy Spirit comes with power to fight evil, withstand suffering and wage war against Satan. The Holy Spirit, even though revealed as a dove in this passage, is the one that turns Jerusalem and the Roman empire of 30 AD upside down, all because of love, through the person of Christ, the anointed one, the promised Messiah. From being born in a manger with the shepherds to greet him, to dying on a cross with thieves to bid him goodbye, with a borrowed roof over his little head and a borrowed tomb for his final bed, this man anointed today in that river Jordan, changed the course of human history for all eternity, by the power of the same Spirit that anoints each one of us today in the waters of baptism. This is a call for us to turn the world upside down through love. Having received this same Spirit of God, we are empowered to live and love in the same way as Jesus did. We are Christ’s body, He the head.
The passage ends with a voice from heaven saying, “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Let us strive with perseverance to live as Christ did, that our Father in heaven may say the same words to us, “You are my beloved son/daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 29:1-4,9-10The Lord will bless his people with peace
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