The Baptism Of The Lord: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus Begins His Public Life.”
After Christmas, the liturgy deals with the start of Jesus’ public life.
The first reading describes the call, the gift of the Spirit and the mission of the “Servant of YHWH.”
In the second reading St. Peter tells us that it all began with Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.
The Gospel points to Jesus as the faithful “Servant” of the Father who, as he begins his public life, brings in a changed relationship between us and God.
We are all called to leave the past behind and look towards the future to a New Heaven and a New Earth. What an exciting invitation!
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.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Last week, Isaiah looked to the rebuilding of a city and the Psalmist to the future coming of a king; this week, Deutero-Isaiah writes of the restoration of the nation after its exile in a foreign land. “Come to the water,” it is told, and you will have all the gifts that God’s Wisdom offers in her banquet (Prv. 9:1-6). The favours once promised in the Covenant to David (2 Sm. 7:25), are offered to the whole people. All this will come about, once wickedness is abandoned and God’s ways adopted. If God has spoken, nothing can cancel his decree, just as nothing can wipe away the effects of rain on a thirsty land.
Isaiah goes on to say, “Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread?” Then he tells us what is ‘truly bread’ for us: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Isaiah assures us that just as the rain and snow bring about abundant crops, so God’s word will “accomplish that which I purpose….”
The reading concludes with a call to hope. Are you tired of the happiness you thought you would get easily in the place of exile? God is the one who gives and he always gives first. He only hopes that we will open the door for him. Jesus will offer us the rest (Mt. 11:28); he will give us the Bread of Life (Jn. 6) and he will give himself as ‘the friend’ (Rev.3:20).
Human beings experience a certain hunger and a certain thirst that only God can fully satisfy and it is useless to look anywhere else for satisfaction. In Jesus Christ, God has provided humanity with this spiritual nourishment: the Word of God and the Eucharist (Jn.6; 7:37). In the words of St. Augustine, our hearts remains restless until they find God.
Seeking God means changing our way of life and conforming to God’s way, which is often very different from ours. God’s word is powerful enough to change us. It is like a messenger who does not return until he has fulfilled his mission.
The conversion God wants is not simply a turning away from sins and moral corruption; he is asking for much more. He wants a radical change in our way of looking at God. Vs. 10-11 are very important from an African point of view. The importance of the spoken word is known in Africa, because the word is efficacious. The word has a creative power. That is why in Africa a curse is believed to produce the intention of the one who made it: see also note on Ex. 21:7.
In catechesis it will help many African Christians if the dynamic dimension of the word can be clearly shown. The power of the word should be examined in daily life (in political propaganda, the newspapers, radio and television). The importance of the 8th Commandment (you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour) should be deepened.
Responsorial Psalm ~ Isaiah 12:2-6.
A hymn from Isaiah replaces the Psalm. It too is concerned with water. As in every good prayer, we praise God for the past and look with confidence to the future. God is not a figure far away in heaven (as we might understand from Isaiah 6:1-4), but is a Saviour among his people. He is the well from which saving water can be drawn.
1 John 5:1-9.
In 1 John, we again read of water. Some has left the Johannine community because they could not accept the humanity of Christ (1 Jn. 2:19). For them he was the Son of God who had come down directly from the Father. In reply John insists that it was Jesus, the man from Nazareth, who was the Son of God. He came by water; was one with the people of God in accepting Baptism in the waters of the Jordan. He came by blood too, he really died as the ‘Lamb of God’, a sacrifice to liberate us and make us children of God. This is how he overcame the world and through believing in him, we can overcome the world too.
Jesus “came to the water” (Is 55:1) as a result of the preaching of John the Baptist. In his description of the Baptist, Mark refers to his dress, his activity and his words. His dress put him in the line of other desert prophets like Elijah. His activity of baptism for the remission of sins associated him with other preachers of the time, like those at Quamran, who called for purification by water as a sign of cleansing of sins. His word of proclamation pointed to the One who was coming after him, whose baptism would be one of judgement (Mal. 3:1).
The desert is a symbolic place for the people of God. In the desert their forefathers made their Covenant with God. In the desert they also experienced how difficult it is to be faithful to God and at the same time, they saw how much God loves them and cares for them. This love freely given in spite of their failures God had made them his people. The desert would remain a place of spiritual testing, of spiritual growth and of encounter with God.
John baptised people for the repentance of their sins which they confessed. Why does Jesus participate in this type of baptism? He asks to be baptised like the others, not because he needs repentance and forgiveness, but because he want to be immersed in the sinful human condition in order to bring us back to God. In baptism we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness and are assured of God’s love.
When Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan, he began his long fight against all the forces that wanted to lead him astray from the course prepared for him by his Father. After these events Jesus is mature enough to start his public life. Like the Baptist, Jesus most probably did pass some time of his life in the desert, but this is mostly symbolic.
John baptised in the river Jordan. Just as the desert, so the river Jordan reminds people of the time they crossed the Jordan after the years of wandering in the desert. Again, it was God who helped them settle down in the land of promise (Jos. 3:14-4:18). John’s baptism would enable the people to pass from a life of sin, of wandering from one evil to another, to that of an intimate union with God in a new family.
The early Christians used baptism as the first sacrament of initiation into the Christian community (Act 2:41; 22:16). This was done either by immersing the person, often an adult, completely in water or by pouring water over the head of the person. Both forms are valid and initiate the person into the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.
The heavens are traditionally considered to be the dwelling place of God. The heavens, closed for so long, opened again (Is.64:1). The Spirit that had brooded over the earth at creation once more appeared in the shape of a dove and God himself spoke, identifying Jesus as his Son. The heavens “torn apart” are a sign that God has come close to his people. Now, they are capable of meeting him directly. It is in the person of Jesus that this has become possible.
Something similar will happen at Jesus’ death when the veil of the sanctuary will be torn in two from top to bottom (Mk, 15:38). Up to that time God was hidden behind a veil where only priests could go. Now, through the death of Jesus, God is open and accessible to all. The opened heavens were not enough to open the hearts and change the religious traditions. Mark in his Gospel will show that it would require the giving up of Jesus’ life to open this veil between God and his people.
After the opening verse of Mark’ Gospel, this is the second time that Jesus is called the ‘Son of God’. It will be said again at the Transfiguration with an invitation to listen to his voice (Mk. 9:7). In the rest of the Gospel only demons will confess him as the ‘Son of God’ but they will be told by Jesus to keep quiet. They know who Jesus is, but they do not want to follow him. Knowledge does not always lead to faith. Only after his death on the Cross does a human being, a Roman centurion, confess Jesus as the ‘Son of God’. Mark reminds us that we can recognise and confess Jesus’ divinity if we are ready to meet him in his most vulnerable moment of total self-giving on the Cross.
John points to the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit leads us onwards in our pilgrimage to God. We are called upon daily to leave the past behind and travel into the future, towards the “new heaven and new Earth”.
‘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 B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Human beings experience a certain hunger and a certain thirst that only God can fully satisfy and it is useless to look anywhere else for satisfaction. In Jesus Christ, God has provided humanity with this spiritual nourishment: the Word of God and the Eucharist (Jn.6; 7:37). In the words of St. Augustine, our hearts remain restless until they find God.
Mon. … The first reading concludes with a call to hope. Are you tired of the happiness you thought you would get easily in the place of exile? Often it is our self-imposed exile, our place of comfort and convenience. God is the one who gives and he always gives first. He only hopes that we will open the door for him. Jesus will offer us the rest (Mt. 11:28); he will give us the Bread of Life (Jn. 6) and he will give himself as ‘the friend’ (Rev.3:20).
Tues. … He came by water; was ‘one’ with the people of God in accepting Baptism in the waters of the Jordan. He came by blood too; he really died as the ‘Lamb of God’, a sacrifice to liberate us and make us children of God. This is how he overcame the world and through believing in him, we can overcome the world too.
Wed. … John poses this powerful question to us: “Who is that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’? If only we have faith the size of a mustard seed!
Thurs. … The desert is a symbolic place for us as well. The periods in our lives when we are travelling through harsh and difficult times, is an important period of spiritual testing, spiritual growth. It is a time when we are suffering hardship and carrying our crosses we are closest to God. We begin to realise that we need to depend and put our trust in God and not in the false promises of this world. Put our faith in the One who loves us. Let us walk in the Way of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Frid. … Jesus asks to be baptised like the others, not because he needs repentance and forgiveness, but because he want to be immersed in the sinful human condition in order to bring us back to God. The Baptism of Jesus is the model of our Baptism. The divine revelation at the Jordan enlightens us about our relationship with the three Divine Persons. The Father loves us as his beloved children. The Son, in mercy, enters the rivers of humanity to rescue the sinner. The Holy Spirit, dove of peace, rests on the soul in a constant divine presence of love. In baptism we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for forgiveness and are assured of God’s love.
Sat. …The Baptism of Jesus sets him up for his mission. Awareness of what our Baptism means will set us up for our mission too. The graces we receive at Baptism has to be fanned into flame. It is in the sharing our faith and love with others that our lives grow spiritually and bear abundant fruit. In giving love we shall receive love abundantly.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, help us to fully understand our Christian responsibilities we have accepted at our baptism. May we too have 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, to proclaim the Good News 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.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.