January 10, 2021 – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
by Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011021.cfm)
The Christmas Season began with the 1st “epiphany”, the announcement by the angel to the shepherds about the birth of the Saviour [Lk. 2:8-20]. He is the Messiah and the Lord whom Israel had been waiting for. This we celebrated on Christmas Day. The 2nd “epiphany” we celebrated was last Sunday, when the Magi who travelled from the East found the “king of the Jews” through the guidance of “the star” [Mt. 2: 1-12]. This was the revelation by God to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi.
And today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the 3rd and last of the three “epiphanies” or “revelations” within the Christmas Season. Today, at Jesus’ baptism, God the Father revealed Jesus to us as the Messiah, the one anointed “with the Holy Spirit and with power” [Acts 10:38]. Jesus was sent by the Father to baptize us “with the Holy Spirit” [Mk. 1:8].
At his baptism, Jesus made a deliberate decision to reach out to humankind. The 1st Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is applied to Jesus to emphasize this point. According to the Prophet Isaiah, this “servant of God” being empowered by the Spirit of God, will faithfully implement God’s plan. Because of the very close relationship between God and this “servant”, he becomes the “bridge” between God and the people. He becomes the “light” to God’s people and inspires hope in them.
The four Gospels show us how Jesus exactly fulfilled all these! Empowered by the Holy Spirit after his baptism, Jesus went about to do his mission here on earth. Jesus brought the people and God closer to each other. By his teaching and deeds, Jesus became the source of inspiration, courage, and hope especially among the poor and those abandoned and ignored by society!
At baptism Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, to enable him to accomplish his specific mission on earth. The same thing happened at our own baptism. The power of the Holy Spirit is there to help us fulfill our specific mission on this world!
At Jesus’ baptism, the Father confirmed that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, in whom God is well pleased! The same confirmation has been made by God on the day of our baptism! This is how important and significant our baptism is!
But our baptism, we did not make of us “an instant and a finished product Christian”! St. Jerome, the one who translated the Bible into Latin, once said: “Christians are made, not born.” From the day of our baptism, we have to continue to grow, to develop, and to mature as a Christian! This growth and development in us, must be seen in the way we live, act, and think; and in our attitudes in life! This ongoing process of growth and development is the process of our Christian maturity! “Christians are made, not born.”
On the day of his baptism, Jesus made a free and deliberate decision to be God’s “faithful servant” who was to implement God’s plan for humankind and the rest of creation! Becoming and growing as a Christian then is a free decision each one of us must make!
Most of us, if not all, were baptized when we were still infants. We were not in the position to make that free choice, so our own parents and godparents, made that decision on our behalf. They were supposed to tell us, and to explain to us about the meaning and significance of that decision! As we grow older and mature, at a certain point in our life, we have to freely decide whether we will accept or reject that decision made for us! That is one of the reasons, why during the Easter Vigil Mass and at the Masses on Easter Sunday; we are invited to renew our baptismal vows and promises. This gives us the opportunity to freely choose whether we want to continue on being the “beloved adopted sons and daughters of God” and disciples of Jesus Christ!
Although this gift is freely offered by God to all, yet it is never forced on anyone! Jesus never forces anyone to continue their discipleship! Our free choice and decision will be respected and honored by God and by Jesus Christ!
As you continue to mature as a Christian, is your mission here on earth becoming clearer? Do you experience the power of the Holy Spirit helping you accomplish your mission? Are you continuing to grow and mature as a disciple of Jesus? If your baptism is that significant and important, do you know the date of your baptism as you well know your own birthday?