12Jan 12 January, 2020. The Baptism of the Lord

Prayer (ICEL 1998)

God of the covenant,
you anointed your beloved Son
with the power of the Holy Spirit
to be light for the nations
and release for captives.
Grant that we who are born again
of water and the Spirit
may proclaim with our lips the good news of his peace
and show forth in our lives the victory of his justice.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendour of eternal light,
God for ever and ever.

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 coastlands 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.”

Responsorial: Isaiah 12:2-6

You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation. (R./)

Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name. (R./

Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds,
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

2nd Reading: Acts 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.”


May your words, O Lord, be in my thoughts, on my lips, and in my heart. May they guide my life and keep me near to you.

Making his purpose our own

On several occasions I’ve had the privilege of being on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. An experience that I specially remember was wading into the river Jordan, where I and each of my fellow pilgrims renewed the promises of our baptism. It was a moving moment, and one could envision the Spirit descending, and the Father confirming each of us as his son or daughter. Many of those who experienced it 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 sinful state, but the Father and the Spirit are seen and heard to be there with him. 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.

Even if we seldom think of it, each person needs a sense of purpose and pattern in our 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!’

6 Responses

  1. Seamus Ahearne

    I was wondering what would Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Jim Sheridan, Sam Mendes, do with this Script for our Feast? But then Matthew, Mark and Luke may have taken lessons from each of the above Film Directors or could possibly have given them lessons! Our trio – The Evangelists have done well.

    The Screen (for the Filmed Feast) is visually quite dramatic. There is a discussion between John and Jesus. There is the reluctance. There is the wink from Jesus. There is water, the heavens opening, the dove, and the Voice. The Scene is set. The Drama continued. It doesn’t happen like that anymore which is such a pity. Or does it? And we don’t notice it. The Drama is never just for looking at or admiring, but for application now to ourselves.

    I watched a little of the Christmas Masses from Galway and Bradford. They were beautifully celebrated. But I couldn’t stay very long with either of them. I wanted to escape the formality of it all. They were perfectly ‘performed’ but I wanted more heart, awe, warmth, wonder. Which is hardly possible in the tightly structured TV controlled space. What I found missing, is probably a fault in me. I rushed back in my mind, to ourselves. The spontaneity. The informality. The grounding of everything in life and in the experience of those present. Liturgy has to be always imbedded in the life-story of those present. That is now true for the Feast. We can caught up in the Drama and forget the message. That is very true of our Liturgies. I was indeed asking for too much, looking at the TV. I was only an observer. Faith demands a response.

    The Feast then has to awaken something deep in ourselves. Wonder-moments. Stirring mountain- tops. Challenging inspirations. Baptism (even of Jesus or ourselves) is not just a moment or an event; it is a Commissioning. Before we can be Blessed by that Voice; we have to prise open our hearts, minds, imaginations to notice; to catch; to experience God. The Voice. The Open heavens. The Spirit. The Dove or whatever. Sacramental opportunities (not only 7 Sacraments but God is lurking everywhere and at all times) and occasions, are Graced times. When we are touched by God. How often do we meet them or discover them or are alert to them? There is little use in looking at the Film-Director’s presentation of the Baptism of Jesus, unless we interpret what we have and translate it for ourselves. Every day. Every place. Every person. Is a revelation.

    Seamus Ahearne osa

  2. Stephen Kearney

    Re film directors. NO criticism of your earlier messages, but I’d rather get through to the man in the pub, for his usual Saturday night relaxation and communication with and about his/her friends, or the young people who have to go to watch football, or play for their local club, Then the working mother who has been too tired every evening for anything but a rushed tea, then on the children run to their clubs or friends birthday parties. So she leaves Sunday morning free to watch her prerecorded soaps…….. When I finish working on these, I really only want some down to earth “sound bites” or stories, to help me to replace my cynicism with genuine Good News.

  3. Pádraig McCarthy

    It’s deliberately counter to our expectations that Jesus is baptised by John. But this recurs in Matthew: love for the Father, and for the Father’s will, trumps all. “Thy will be done.”
    The genealogy of Jesus which opens the gospel according to Matthew sets the scene: God writes straight with crooked lines.
    It was not humanly “necessary” that Jesus be born of Mary. The angel told Joseph not to be afraid – this was God’s plan, and that “fear” is typical of a reaction of unworthiness at realising the action of God.
    It was not humanly necessary that Jesus go into the desert to be put to the test (Matt 4), but it was God’s will.
    How could it be necessary that Jesus face death on the cross – Jesus prayed in Gethsemane that it not be necessary (Matt 26). “Not my will, but yours.”
    To set the scene for the objection John had to baptising Jesus, perhaps add in verses 11 & 12 just before this scene: “I baptise you with water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the holy spirit and with fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand …” The expectations of John take second place to the will of the Father.
    There are three sets of fourteen generations in Matthew’s genealogy: that’s six sets of seven. With Jesus, we are in a new age: the seventh set of the generations of God’s people.

  4. Joe O'Leary

    Quiet early morning Eucharist at the Anglican church (St Alban’s, Tokyo) — since the last time the priest has changed sex, and is now an American woman whose father, like mine, was born in Bantry, and who has cousins in Kealkil, where I acted as curate in the summer of 1976.

    Her sermon: Why did the sinless one go down into the waters of repentance? Out of solidarity with sinful humanity, and with particular reference to our social sin — the homelessness enveloping our cities, the military budgets at national level (quoting Eisenhower: every gun purchased is a theft from those lacking bread), the rape of the environment at planetary level. We think his sin is not a matter of our personal responsibility, but it is. Thoreau refused to pay the poll tax because it was connected with slavery, and was imprisoned; Emerson visited him and said, “What on earth are you doing in here?” and, not missing a beat, Thoreau replied, “What on earth are you doing out there?”

  5. Paddy Ferry

    I have always been a bit puzzled by Jesus’ baptism by John. Baptism is about forgiveness –surely our belief is that Jesus was sinless. Someone, much more learned in scripture and theology than I, once told me that this was omitted by the time John’s Gospel was written because that early ” church” had become embarrassed by it.

  6. Joe O'Leary

    I see that John 1:31-4 does not say that John baptized Jesus, though the reader is likely to fill in that detail from the Synoptic accounts.

    The author of Matthew is already embarrassed, which is why he adds the dialogue between John and Jesus to the Markan account.

    Luke tucks the mention of Jesus being baptized into a discreet subordinate clause (3:21-“when Jesus too had been baptized and was praying”), in contrast to his elaborate presentation of the Baptist.

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