Browsing Homilies

The Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7 | Ps 29 | Acts 10:34-38 | Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

These weeks of Christmas have been a time in which we have celebrated the amazing grace of God coming into our world being born into our human family! In the mystery of the incarnation, we learn that our God is a God who is among us, in our midst; a God that is closer to us than we are to our very selves: our God is Emmanuel: God with us!

So, as our cultural calendar marks the beginning of a new year, this feast of the Baptism of the Lord not only marks the end of the Christmas season, but the beginning of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. And with the start of Ordinary Time, we encounter an event in Scripture that marks the start of the public ministry of Jesus. So, as we prepare once again to tell the story of our salvation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus throughout Ordinary Time, our Church gives us readings this day that teach us who Jesus is as he begins his mission and public ministry on earth.

From our readings, we hear that who Jesus is, as was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, is a bearer of justice who will do so quietly: “not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.” With Jesus, the message is not shouted out, not forced upon us (as many leaders in the world might do), but his message is cultivated from within us, it’s written on our hearts. As Jesus is “God with us,” he will bring about justice by being just; by living justly; by showing us how to live justly and so showing us what is possible when you and I follow his example. The lived message of Jesus is meant to quietly call us to change our hearts by living justly.

Who Jesus is, is also demonstrated for us in Luke’s account of his baptism. As a humble servant, Jesus submits himself to the baptism of John whereby we learn by the opening of the sky, the descent of the Spirit like a dove, and the voice speaking from above that Jesus, the humble servant, is the new way for humanity to connect with and to be in relationship with God. Also, by Jesus submitting to the baptism by full immersion in the Jordan we see, by symbol, God’s full immersion into our humanity in the person of Jesus.

Our Scriptures this day on the feast of the Baptism of Jesus give us a clearer vision and understanding of exactly who “God with us” truly is. As God’s servant and son, we are reminded this day that the mission of Jesus isn’t about powerful words of persuasion or about loud displays of intimidation. Rather, we are reminded that Jesus’ mission was about living a life that cultivates justice and peace, a cultivation directed toward the conversion of the hearts of all who encounter Jesus.

By living justly, by performing acts of love and mercy, by speaking (not shouting) words of hope and promise and peace, the mission that Jesus began at his baptism is his demonstration to the world of what it means to live in a world where “God is with us.” Life with Jesus, God with us, is a life that brings light to our eyes and our hearts to liberate us from the blindness that impairs us and that only causes separation and division. In the mission of Jesus, God with us gives us a guiding light of justice and love that sets us free from all forms of imprisonment to the dark dungeons of hatred, violence, and all forms of bitter and toxic ways of thinking and acting. Living life with “God with us,” as we learn from Jesus, is living our lives with a purpose and direction in life that heals, unifies, forgives, and liberates.

The next time you act, choose, respond, post, compose a text, or draft an e-mail – before you hit “send,” ask yourself: “Is what I’m about to do or say going to bring about healing or further a hurt; cause greater unity or division; forgive or foster a grudge; or help bring about liberation and freedom, or prevent it?

On this feast day, ours is an invitation given to us by God to follow Jesus’ example, and so come to experience in our lives the joys of living life with Emmanuel, God with us!


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