08 January, 2017. The Baptism of the Lord
1st Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
A courageous servant of God will help others to keep the Covenant
Thus says the Lord:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coast-lands wait for his teaching.
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.”
2nd Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38
After his baptism of Jesus went about doing good. Baptism sends us out to do good
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17
After being baptised, Jesus was filled with the Spirit, to do the work of God, his Father
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom am well pleased.”
Begin a new stage
José Antonio Pagola
Before relating Jesus’ prophetic activity, the Gospel writers talk about an experience that will radically transform his life. After being baptized by John, Jesus feels himself a beloved Child of God, inhabited fully by God’s Spirit. He sets out announcing to everyone, through his life and his message, the Good News of a God who is friend and saviour of the human person. So it’s not surprising that the Pope, invites us to live these coming years in «a new stage of evangelization», and reminds us that our Church needs more than ever «evangelizers with Spirit». He well knows that only the Spirit of Jesus can instill in us the energy that puts in motion the radical conversion that we need. But by what paths?
This renewal of the Church can only be born of the newness of the Gospel. The Pope wants people of today to listen to the same message that Jesus proclaimed as he went about Galilee, nothing else. We need to «return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel». Only in this way «will we break the worn-out plans of those who try to box in Jesus Christ». Pope Francis speaks of a radical renovation «that can’t leave things as they are; merely basic maintenance doesn’t work anymore». That’s why he asks us «to abandon the comfortable pastoral criteria we have been using forever» and Invite everyone « to be bold and creative in the task of rethinking objectives, structures, the style and the methods of evangelists in our communities».
Francis is looking for a Church in which we really communicate the Good News of Jesus to the present world. «More than being afraid of making mistakes, I hope that we are moved by the fear of enclosing ourselves in structures that give us a false sense of control, in norms that turn us into demanding judges, in customs that put us to sleep, while around us there’s a hungry multitude and Jesus never tires of telling us: give them something to eat yourselves».
He wants us to build «a Church with doors wide open», since the joy of the Gospel is for everyone and no one should be excluded. » What a joy and relief to hear from our Pope a vision of Church that recovers Jesus’ most genuine Spirit, breaking attitudes that have been hidebound for centuries! «At least let us act like dispensers of grace and not like micromanagers. The Church isn’t a customs agency; it is the Father’s house where there’s room for each one who feels burdened with life».
Having a clear purpose in life
I’ve had the privilege of leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land on several occasions. One of my abiding memories is of an immersion up to my thighs in the river Jordan, where I and all my pilgrim friends renewed the promises of our baptism. It was a moving moment, when one could envision the Spirit hovering and the Father confirming each of us as his son or daughter. All who took part will remember that moment with great emotion, and with a sense of renewed commitment.
The baptism of Jesus is a moment of special grace in our story of salvation. Not only did he join us in our human condition, seeking moral and spiritual renewal, but the Father and the Spirit were seen and heard to be present with him by the banks of the Jordan, for the renewal of our human race. The gospel uses the simple phrase that “the heavens were opened,” but it is a powerful statement. Later on, when Jesus completed his life-journey on Calvary, we read how “the veil of the Temple was rent in two.” Now at last we were free to enter the Holy of Holies. Today’s gospel is the beginning of a journey, which, through our own baptism, each of us is asked to travel. It is a journey full of purpose.
Each of us needs a sense of purpose and pattern to our Christian living. When I set out on a journey I need to have a definite idea of where I intend going, and how to make the journey. Peter summarised the purpose and pattern of Christ’s life when he said, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” We are invited to make his purpose our own.
A man was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw. When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road. The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!’