Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
On this last day of our Advent / Christmas journey, the Gospel tells us that as Jesus came up from the water, He heard the voice of God the Father make His identity clear to all present: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” When we come up from the waters of Baptism, the Church makes it clear that we "have been now been made Christians ... may you remain members of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King, unto eternal life" (Order of Baptism 151). So we need to ask ourselves this: Are we living up to this awesome identity?
Entrance Antiphon: Mt 3:16-17 — “After the Lord was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and the voice of the Father thundered: ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”
First Reading: Is 42:1-4, 6-7 — “Behold my servant with whom I am well pleased.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 — “The Lord will bless His people with peace.”
Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38 — “God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.”
Alleluia: Mk 9:8 — “Alleluia, alleluia. The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered: ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.’ Alleluia, alleluia.”
Gospel: Mt 3:13-17 — “After Jesus was baptized, He saw the Spirit of God coming upon Him.”
Communion Antiphon: Jn 1:32, 34 — “Behold the One of whom John said: I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
As we will hear in the Gospels over the coming weeks, Jesus' identity will be revealed even more through His teaching, His preaching, and His healing. In a similar way, our daily words and actions … what we say, what we do, and how we act … all reveal to others our identity as Christ's disciples … and if they don’t … they should.
And so, who is Jesus? and as a follow-up to that question, who are we? The Advent and Christmas-season Gospels identify Jesus as Son of Man: the One mightier than John the Baptist, the One who will save people from their sins, Emmanuel … God-with-us, Savior, Christ, Lord, the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the true Light, and the only Son of God. The Order of Baptism identifies us as Christians: holy people, members of Christ’s Body, new creations, clothed in Christ, children of the light, and children of God.
And Christ’s words and actions should help to shape our identity. As Christians, we are called to live in the way Jesus taught us. Our identity as members of His Body is to be shaped or informed by His words and actions, summed up best in the law … in the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love neighbor. The very word “identity” comes from a word meaning “identical.” In other words, by virtue of our Baptism, we are called to be identical to Jesus in our manner of living, in our treatment of others, and in our faithfulness to God’s commands. Pope Francis encourages us: “Being Christian is not just obeying orders but means being in Christ, thinking like Him, acting like Him, loving like Him … it means letting Him take possession of our life and letting Him change it, transform it, and free it from the darkness of evil and sin” (April 2013).
Today, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is technically the First Sunday of Ordinary Time and the end of the Church’s Christmas celebration. However, even though the decorations may have been put away, the gift of the Christmas season remains with us. We should continue to treasure that gift every day of our lives. Jesus, the beloved Son of God, came to Earth to save all people from sin and to show us the way to the Father. We are invited to continue to unwrap this present in the coming weeks and months, even as “Ordinary Time,” “Ordinal Time” … “Counted Time” begins. We are challenged to consider what in our lives might need to be changed or adjusted so that we continue to grow into our identity as children of light and children of God.
Just as society often cautions us to protect ourselves from identity theft, we need to remain aware of choices and habits that weaken our identity as Christians … such as putting other activities before our relationship with God … Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and which practices strengthen our identity too … such as regularly attending Mass and reception of the Sacraments. If the Christmas season we just celebrated is to have its full meaning and if our Baptism is to bear fruit in our lives, we must make the commitment to continue growing into our full Christian identity – both as individuals and as a Parish community.
Jesus, the beloved Son of God, meets us at the table of the Eucharist, revealing Himself to us in the gifts of His Body and His Blood. Let us pray that our sharing in this holy banquet strengthen our identity in Him.