Sunday, 1/10/2021, The Baptism of the Lord
The Prophecy of the First Step toward Salvation
First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
See United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for other optional readings
In his prophecy of the Baptism of Jesus, Isaiah relays what the Lord had said to him about Jesus and His mission. Isaiah does not mention Jesus by name, nor does he specifically mention the baptism. But from what is said, we know that it is Jesus and His baptism that Isaiah speaks about.
When Jesus was baptized, God, the Father, spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” In today's Gospel, Mark tells us that the Father said, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." This is a fulfillment of the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy. The LORD said to Isaiah, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.”
Jesus was the One chosen by the Father to be the Son, but God chooses all of us to be His children and He wants to be pleased with all of us. It is for this reason that the Father sent the Son for our salvation. Our salvation is the mission of Jesus and the rest of this prophecy from Isaiah is about that mission.
When we meditate on the mission of Jesus, we must remember that Jesus does not act alone. This is because Jesus is not one of three gods but rather, the Second Person of One God, the Trinity. We see the Trinity revealed in this prophecy and at the Baptism of Jesus with the descent of the Spirit like a dove and the Father speaking from heaven.
Jesus does not carry out His mission by shouting out and He does not rely on fanfare and hype. But Jesus does teach us and fulfills His mission by action. Jesus shows His mercy and forgiveness and establishes justice. This begins with baptism.
The sacrament of Baptism was instituted with the Baptism of Jesus. When we are baptized, the Holy Spirit descends upon us and we are washed clean from original sin. If we are old enough to have committed sins, the sins we have committed up to the time of our baptism are also washed clean. Baptism is therefore a major step in our journey toward salvation.
Jesus was called by the Father to bring the victory of justice. He is our covenant, the new covenant, which is the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is also the Light that shows the way and allows the blind to see. Jesus is the one who releases us from the dungeon and the darkness of sin.
Without this prophecy of Isaiah, we still know from the life of Jesus that He does all of these things for us. But with this prophecy, we know that it is the Father’s Will that the Sacrament of Baptism be a major part in our salvation and Jesus brings the sacrament to us by allowing Himself to be baptized first.
God Is with Us
Second Reading Commentary: Acts 10:34-38
See United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for other optional readings
In speaking to the house of Cornelius, Peter confirmed the prophecy of Isaiah. But he also proclaimed that, “God shows no partiality.” Therefore, the word sent to the Israelites was for the people of all nations. Through His works and teachings, this was made clear by Christ.
Peter said, “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” This is one way that Peter tells us that the Father’s plan is both revealed and fulfilled through Jesus.
Through the messages contained in the teachings of Jesus and with the promise of the Kingdom of Heaven; Jesus reveals the Father’s plan to us. Through His many works and going to the cross; Jesus fulfills two vital parts of the Father’s plan. The final part will be fulfilled on the last day with the second coming of Christ.
Waiting for the second coming of Christ does not mean that we are without Him now. His very name of Emmanuel, which means God is with us, tells us that He is with us. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said to the Apostles, “And behold, I am with you always.” Jesus does not break promises and through His Word contained within the Gospels, Jesus is with us always.
In a physical way, Jesus is with us in the Eucharist which is the Living Body and Blood, the Blessed Sacrament. At Mass, in the concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says or sings, “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” When I hear this prayer at Mass, I am reminded that our God is one God but three persons and where there is one, there is all three.
We do not have to question if God is with us. Those of us with faith, know that He is. The question is, are we with God?
The Institution of the Sacrament of Baptism
Gospel Commentary: Mark 1:7-11
John the Baptist proclaimed that he baptized people so that they might repent for their sins. He also proclaimed that there was One who was mightier than he who would come and baptize with the Spirit and he knew that Jesus was the One who was also without sin. John therefore did not consider himself worthy to baptize Jesus, but John’s reluctance was overcome when Jesus said, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” The bible footnote to Matthew 3:15 says, "To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race."
We must ask ourselves if we are willing to submit to God’s plan for the salvation of the human race. Are we willing to submit ourselves to the righteousness of respecting and protecting all human life from the moment of conception up to and including death? Are we willing to stand up and fight for the cause of the poor, the marginalized, the immigrants, those who have no one to pray for them or to care of them? And how about the unemployed and those who are without health insurance? The list keeps going.
Are we willing to accept the fact that hatred and racism are profound acts against respecting human life? It is truly sad and a terrible testament to the state of this nation that too many people who consider themselves to be good people cannot answer that last question with a “Yes.”
The baptism of Jesus, which is the First Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, was no less important to the Father’s plan than the birth of Jesus or the submission of Jesus to the cross for our salvation. Without baptism, Jesus could not complete His mission and there would be no salvation. As a result, Jesus allowing Himself to be baptized by John is a major part of the fulfillment all righteousness.
It was therefore necessary that Jesus identify Himself with sinners through baptism. It is another sign that God does not ask us to do anything which He is not willing to do for us. But more importantly, because Jesus submitted Himself to baptism, He was able to take the sins of the world with Him and nail them to the cross. In a physical way, our sins are washed away by the waters of Baptism. In a spiritual way, our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ on the cross.
After Jesus was baptized, the Trinity was revealed. The heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove and the Father spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” In today's Gospel, Mark tells us that the Father said, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
Can you imagine yourself being present to witness the baptism of Jesus, being able to see the Spirit descend upon Him and hearing the Father speak? I am sure that everyone who was there, was overwhelmed with fear of the Lord and believed. We have to rely on faith. In a way, we are more fortunate because everything that God wants from us begins with our faith. Everything begins with our believing.
When we are baptized, original sin and any other sins which we may have committed up to the time of our baptism are washed away. The Holy Spirit descends upon us and showers us with His gifts.
Baptism is one of the sacraments of initiation. The other two are Confirmation and First Communion—the Eucharist. Baptism is the first sacrament because by being freed from sin and showered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are provided with what we need to begin our spiritual journey to heaven and we are able to experience communion with God through the Eucharist. And when we reach heaven, the Father will say, “You are my beloved son” or “You are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased.”