FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Baptism of the Lord (B)
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 | Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10 | Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38 | Mark 1:7-11
At a Baptismal ceremony, Fr. Joel asks "What name do you give your triplets?" Joan replies, "Mercedes, Nissan and Ford, Father." Fr. Joel asks, "Why in the world would you name your children after cars?" Joan replies, "I love cars and everything about them, Father". Fr. Joel gives in, "Okay, let's do away with water. What do you want me to pour down on their heads, Premium or Unleaded?"
At our Lord's Baptism, the Spirit has proclaimed Jesus as Messiah: as the PRIEST who would sacrifice his life for others, as the PROPHET who would reveal God's presence in word and in action, and as the KING who would proclaim his kingdom from a cross. As we now move from the Christmas season and into ordinary time, let this feast give us of hope and encouragement as we continue along our journey.
Combining parents' names is a much loved technique used by couples nowadays in naming their children. At a Baptismal ceremony, Fr. Harold asks, "What name do you give your son?" The parents of the child answer, "CELPON, Father." Surprised, Fr. Harold exclaims, "Are you sure? Why name your son, CELPON?" The parents of the child reply, "My wife's name is Celia and mine is Ponciano". Fr. Harold says, "That really sounds odd to me". Moving on to the next child to be baptized, he asks, "Who are the parents of this little girl?" The parents of the child answer, "Charmaine and Roger, Father." Smiling, Fr. Harold exclaims, "Beautiful names! What name do you give your daughter?" The parents of the child reply, CHARGER, Father!"
Much of the book of Isaiah deals with the Babylonian Exile, Our First Reading begins with a word of encouragement for the Jewish captives who are experiencing the Exile. The text portrays the Lord's "Suffering Servant" who is commissioned to "bring forth justice" to the world. He has gentle respect for others. He accomplishes his mission modestly and quietly, not whipping people into conformity but transforming them interiorly. Just as we have many ways in which we might be named and identified, Jesus also was identified in many different ways. In this particular text, Jesus is referred to as the "Suffering Servant" who is being sent to open the eyes of the blind and be a light for those in the darkness, quietly serving and loving.
John, an alcoholic, went to the church to find a solution for his drinking problems. Fr. Paul, after a long talk, asks, "Are you baptized?" John replies, "No". "Well then", says Fr. Paul, "I'll give you the holy baptism and you'll be a new man." The priest plunged John three times in the water and says, "You are now a new creature! There will be no more alcohol in your life! You're not John anymore, you'll be Joseph instead, a new clean and healthy man!" Joseph found the method odd but really liked the experience. So he went home, directly to the fridge, took a beer and dip it in the water saying, "You're now a new creature! You're not beer anymore, you're now orange juice!"
In Baptism, we are made a new person, a new creation. Our Second Reading takes place at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. Though he was a Gentile, he was clearly "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always." (Acts 10:2). Cornelius truly loved God and wanted to please him. God moves Peter to go to Cornelius to tell him about Jesus Christ and baptize him and his household, although they were Gentiles. This episode tells us that whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God. He receives the Spirit and becomes a new person, a new creation.
Napoleon Bonaparte of France, man of humble beginnings who went on to be a tyrant emperor, stated the following after making rounds about his different post and finding a soldier asleep at his post, "Soldier, what is your name?" The soldier replied, "My name is Napoleon." The emperor replied, "What did you say your name was?" The soldier responded the second time, "Napoleon." Then the tyrant emperor stated, "Soldier, my name is Napoleon, and I suggest that you either change your name or start living up to it. Walk worthy of your call."
In our Gospel, Jesus came from Nazareth and asked to be baptized by John with water from the Jordan. As Jesus came out of the water, the heavens were opened up and the Spirit descended upon Jesus. Mark tells us that a voice from heaven proclaimed that Jesus was His beloved Son. Do you think God is proud of Jesus? He certainly is! The Bible tells us that when the Lord Jesus was baptized, a voice ring out in digital Dolby surround-sound that said, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Absolutely breathtaking! In the waters of baptism, Jesus hears in a new way that he is God's son. Jesus accepts his call. It is after this baptism and the acceptance of his call that Jesus begins his earthly ministry and the proclamation of God's kingdom. Why do you think God was proud of his Son? God is proud of Jesus because he always did what his Father told him to do. Jesus came down from heaven not to do his will but to do the will of him who sent him (cf. John 6:38). That would make a Father proud, wouldn't it? We probably all long to hear God say to us, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” This feast is a moment to reflect not only on the Lord's Baptism, but also our own. Today's feast gives us a hint of how we begin to please God and connect more closely to the divine in our lives. Baptism isn't about where you find Jesus; it's what you do once you've found him. Our baptism should remind us always of our identity and mission. It should remind us always of who we are and whose we are. To please God, we begin by accepting his love, by walking worthy of our baptismal call. The question for those of us who have received this power-packed Sacrament is this: What are we doing with it? Wouldn't you like to be the kind of child that would cause God to look down from heaven and say, "My child, I'm proud of you"?
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum