The Baptism Of The Lord: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Empowered For Mission By The Spirit.”
In the first reading, the prophet invites the people of Israel, exiled in Babylon, to prepare to welcome the Lord who is coming to free them. Their state of slavery is about to end. God will save them, but they must, in their own hearts, welcome this liberation.
The second reading recalls the sacrificial death of our Lord for the price of our Redemption and God’s gift to us of the cleansing waters of Rebirth and the Renewing Action of the Spirit.
The Gospel is telling us that this faithful ‘Servant’, beloved by the Father, is Jesus. His baptism is about to start his journey that will take him to his Death and Resurrection, and we are all invited to follow him, carrying our crosses, dying to self and to sin, on our journey towards salvation.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11.
Our first reading consists of the first lines attributed to the un-named poet-prophet who encouraged the Israelites in exile: ‘comfort, comfort, my people’, says your God, and the message is that Jerusalem’s ‘time of service’ is ended. Notice how ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Zion’, and ‘Judah’ run like a theme through the reading: the city, the mountain, and the homeland that they had not seen for half a century, and whose very names must have exercised a strange and powerful call to the Babylonian exiles.
It is not, however, simply a matter of catching a camel-train home; as the prophet reminds them, a trackless desert separates them from the homeland that God has in mind for them. We hear the voice crying in the desert, ‘a clear way for YHWH, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’. Then comes the lovely vision in which all obstacles (‘every valley… every mountain’) are cleared away, and then ‘YHWH’s glory shall be revealed’.
Now, suddenly, hills are no longer an obstacle, but a vantage-point from which ‘Zion’ and ‘Jerusalem’ can be a herald of good tidings, and, confidently, ‘behold the Lord YHWH shall come in power’, and, in an expected image, ‘like a shepherd he will shepherd his flock’. This sacred text tells us that God is coming to take care of his people, to rescue them from captivity. This is a message that is always true, whether it be addressed to an oppressed people of the sixth century B.C. or to Christian believers of today.
In many ways we are like the Israelites in exile. We are all exiles, some of us more than others, being self-imposed by our free will. We are all still far away from our final home. We are all on a journey through the desert. All headed for ‘Jerusalem’. Isaiah is speaking to us as well.
We live in a society that is foreign, and even hostile, to our most deeply held beliefs. The culture that surrounds us today looks on religion as basically irrelevant to human existence. In a world that treasures success, self-assertion and independence we are ‘called’ to build our lives on being subject to the Lord, on love of God, our neighbour and on humility.
The world is constantly inviting us to travel paths different from the paths that a loving God has laid out for us. In his loving guidance, the Lord speaks to us, “Don’t be afraid. I will forgive your sins. I will lead you home. I will take care of you. I am with you now and I will stay with you. Take comfort in my presence.” In this passage God’s word proclaims fundamental ‘Messianic’ realities.
It is not difficult to see why this Old Testament passage was chosen to adorn the celebration of the ‘Baptism of the Lord’. John the Baptist proclaimed, “The Lord is coming”. We then see Jesus publicly identified by the Spirit and as the beloved Son of the Father.
Through Jesus, God will now begin to lead them – to lead us – once more to the ‘New Jerusalem’.
Psalm 104:1-4, 24-25, 27-30.
The Psalm is a meditation on the glories of God in creation. God may have his dwelling in glory, but he still looks after all that he has made. The Spirit, which he sends out, is an agent of rebirth and renewal. This is the same Spirit that came down on Jesus at his baptism.
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7.
We hear again the two passages from the letter to Titus, which are read at Christmas. They are rich in the truths of our faith. They identify Christ with God’s loving favour and grace. They recall his sacrificial death as the price of our salvation. They mention God’s gift to us of the cleansing waters of rebirth and the renewing action of the Holy Spirit.
Through these, we belong to the people that are God’s own. We look forward to the ‘Second Coming of Christ’, and to the fulfilment of the promise to us of the eternal life to which we are all called.
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22.
Today’s Gospel is about the ‘Baptism of Jesus’. Luke does not describe how the baptism actually happened. He does not even say who baptized Jesus. What Luke brings out in his Gospel is the ‘effect’ of this baptism.
There is a new experience of God, and of the Spirit, as Jesus is at prayer. Jesus is empowered to carry out his mission. For Luke the baptism of Jesus was the manifestation of God to the whole of humanity. At the ‘Annunciation’, according to Luke, it is foretold that Jesus will be the ‘Son of God’. So the reader is already aware that it is the Son of God who is now baptized.
The Spirit of God descends upon him in a visible form. To make the revelation of God complete a voice is heard from heaven saying that Jesus is his beloved Son. This voice, therefore, is the voice of the Father. The ‘three persons’ of the Trinity are present at this ‘all-important moment in the history of salvation’.
It is God himself who commits himself to be at work in and through Jesus. What Jesus will do and teach is not simply the initiative of a holy person, but it is the work of God himself. Therefore, to accept or reject Jesus and his message is the same as accepting or rejecting God himself.
As baptism was an important moment for Jesus, so is our own baptism a very important moment in our lives because we enter into a new relationship of love with God as our Father/Creator, He is the source of our life, with Jesus our elder brother and Redeemer, who with the Spirit of God, will guide us in our lives as he guided Jesus. By entering into this relationship with God, we also enter into a new and unique relationship with each other. As Christians, we all share the same life from God and are called to live this as brothers and sisters in spite of the external differences that may exist between us.
In his Gospel, Luke stresses the importance of prayer and gives us Jesus as the model of prayer. Seeing Jesus at prayer teaches us two things. First, that prayer is important in the life of a Christian as it nourishes our relationship with God and each other. Secondly, Jesus’ prayer at the important moments of his life shows us the importance of asking for God’s ‘Light’ before taking significant decisions that can effect our lives and the lives of others. Prayer helps us to discern and choose God’s will for us and for our community, which may not necessarily be what we would have liked ourselves.
Receiving the Spirit of God makes Jesus ready to begin his mission to the people of God. The Spirit he receives at baptism will lead him into the desert, where he will overcome the temptations of the evil one and announce his programme in Nazareth. The mission of Christ is inseparable from the mission of the Spirit. Jesus set aside his own will, and set out to do that of the Father’s.
From now on Jesus will be not just the Father’s beloved Son, but would be the public voice of God speaking tenderly to Jerusalem and offering comfort to God’s people. It is a challenge and an invitation for us all who have been baptized. There is also the promise of the Spirit to back it up. It is only when we are moved by the Holy Spirit and inhabited by him that we will be able to be true witnesses to Christ.
It is important for us to remember that our call from the Lord is not just to receive the comfort that the Father offers us in Jesus. It is not just to move along with everybody else toward the final Jerusalem, as if we were simply baggage in the caravan of God. Our call is also to stand up on the heights and be heralds of God’s ‘Good News’. We are sharers in the life of Jesus through our baptism. We are not just to receive what he offers us but also be agents of its further proclamation, to stand on the mountaintops and invite others to enter God’s Kingdom.
Thanks to our baptism, we too, have a kind of public life in the Lord, a role in carrying out God’s plan of repatriation of his people. We are the people of Zion, called as heralds to proclaim God’s power and God’s care to all the world.
Through God’s grace may we learn to give more room to the Spirit in our own lives and be better witnesses of Jesus and his Gospel by our actions and when necessary use words.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … We are still far away from our final destination, our final home for all eternity. At present we are all exiles in a place that has become foreign to the values of our faith. Where is our life’s journey leading us to the ‘New Jerusalem’ or to the place of damnation – ‘false promises and hopes’?
Mon. … God is constantly calling us his people to make his path straight across the trackless desert of obstacles that separate us from him and the salvation that he has prepared for us. Are we prepared to remove these barriers and impediments from our lives, so that our Lord and Saviour may come into our hearts and lead us in the ‘Way’?
Tues. … Many of these obstacles are well disguised as special treasures in our lives, such as: ‘worldly success’, ‘self-assertion’ and ‘total independence’, which we believe we have worked hard to achieve as a self-made person. Have these lifetime goals become idols of self-worship? Have we forgotten that all that we have achieved has been through the grace of God? Are we able to put aside all worldly things and pride that separate us from God and each other?
Wed. … In Paul’s letter to Titus, Jesus’ sacrificial death is recalled as the price paid for our salvation. God has given us this gratuitous gift, together with the ‘cleansing waters of rebirth’, as well as the ‘renewing action’ of the Holy Spirit to help us make our paths straight. Will we open up our hearts today to Christ’s redeeming love and accept this gift?
Thur. … Let us reflect on the effects of our baptism. Have we entered into a new relationship of love with our ‘Creator and Source of Life’? Have we entered into a kinship of putting the needs of others before ourselves? Are we able to forgive and forget the wrongs that we have suffered? Have we entered into a new and loving rapport with each other without any exceptions? If not, we still have a lot of work to do in removing these obstacles to make the Lord’s path straight. Let us pray for God’s grace and guidance in our tasks ahead.
Frid. … When Jesus received the ‘Spirit of God’ he was ready to begin his mission. He was led into the desert of ‘Temptations and Obstacles’, which he overcame by setting aside his own will in order to carry out the will of the Father.
Sat. … Our baptism has also given us a mission. We each have a role to play in carrying out God’s plan of repatriation of his people from their self-imposed exile, through the spreading of the ‘Good News’. We, too, can overcome the desert of ‘Temptations and Obstacles’ by becoming witnesses to Christ by living according to his Word and always doing the will of the Father.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, we pray for the graces and strength from Your Spirit to carry out the mission of spreading the ‘Good News’ by ‘word and by deed’ You have given us the ability to proclaim to all who are lost and cannot find the way past the obstacles of pride and sin.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.