The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord – Sunday – 10 January 2021
Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Responsorial: Psalm 29; II: Acts 10:34-38; Gospel: Mark 1: 7-11
The holy, joyful and beautiful season of Christmas concludes this Sunday with the second Epiphany Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This gem of the liturgical calendar shows so many facets of the light of grace we are given in Emmanuel, God with us. The grace of the first of the sacraments, the revelation of Jesus’ humble love and obedience, the essential lesson of our need for repentance and cleansing are all revealed. All of these truths (and more) are framed in the singular word we know as “baptism”. And to plunge into this glorious grace it is important to understand the Greek word in Scripture is known as to be immersed. Whether the sacrament is celebrated with literal and full immersion or a sprinkling of the holy water it is the holy grace of being immersed in God to Whom we are being called.
The Baptism of the Lord is also the first full manifestation of the mysterious and majestic reality of the Holy Trinity. It is in this early event in the adult life of Jesus, Son of Mary and of God, that the inscrutable glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is made manifest.
And, once again, the timeless relevance of God’s Word and Truth in our times is also revealed. This past week, on Wednesday, the actual Feast Day of the Epiphany, our country experienced the tragic attempted insurrection in our nation’s capital. The events, as they unfolded, defied comprehension. Like most people I found myself, praying for country, all those involved, for our President elect and for he whose presidency is ending. And I continue to try to pray and to try to comprehend these events. And, as always the Word of God brings light in the darkness.
In seeking to comprehend I seek to listen and dialogue with those invested in these events. A particular message deeply touched and saddened me. It came from an individual in response to a thought I shared of the need for mercy and healing throughout our country, especially between the conservative and liberal elements and the need to realize common values. His reply was terse and clear. He stated there is only thing shared and there will only be one thing… and that is HATE.
I have been praying about all these events and also seeking to prepare a reflection for this Sunday. I was tempted to simply ignore the events of the week and just share a simple reflection. But that would be to deny the relevance of God in our times and lives. And to ignore these events would be a futile attempt to ignore the deadly sorrows that are unfolding.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a call to honestly, prayerfully, humbly seek God to show in what, in whom, we are immersed. We cannot deny that there is an intense and deadly pandemic of hate and strife in our country and the world. And just as we are called to heed the dangers and deadly realities of Covid 19 so we must discern the deadly threats of this other pandemic. We must ask God to show us where we are immersed and to seek, daily, His grace to plunge deep into His healing Presence. This holy immersion, this baptism of light and life is found in the fullness of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are called to be Immersed in God. The infinite, eternal, holy majesty of God is beyond our understanding. We must humbly rejoice in this great handicap of love. We will never have God, religion, our faith figured out. We are called to know, to relate in real life, to God. Father…Son….Holy Spirit. As a child we are created to trust and love our Heavenly Father. As a prodigal we are called to the forgiveness and mercy of God the Son, the Truth, the Living Word of God. As a redeemed child of God we are called to be filled with the God the Holy Spirit. Immersed in God’s love that forgives and shares the mercy of the Crucified. For all of us who would seek a glimpse of God and to be immersed in the Holy One we would do well to follow the steps of many great saints and of Jesus Himself and look to and listen to God in creation.
To share, daily in the Baptism, the Immersion of our Lord we would also do well to listen not particularly to the chaos in the world but especially to those given by God to help us grow deeper in God. I was moved by words I read in the latest encyclical from Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti [All Brothers]. He wrote: “Some people attempt to flee from reality, taking refuge in their own little world; others react to it with destructive violence. Yet between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue.” [Paragraph 199.]. In this practical daily immersion in God and holy dialogue Pope Francis goes on the discuss in the urgently needed works of kindness. He writes: ” Saint Paul describes kindness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit [Galations 5:22]. He uses the Greek word chresto’tes which describes an attitude that is gentle, pleasant and supportive, not rude or coarse. Individuals who possess this quality help make other people’s lives more bearable, especially by sharing the weight of their problems, needs and fears. This way of treating others can take different forms: an act of kindness, a concern not to offend by word or deed, a readiness to alleviate their burdens. It involves ‘speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement’ and not ‘words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn'” [Paragraph 223].
Let us all prayerfully reflect, discern whether our lives are immersed in the dark spirts revealed in the world this week or in the fullness of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in relationships not of deadly , destructive hate and division but in the Spirit of dialogue and kindness.
This week, this holy day, let us each seek the Holy Spirit to show us where, in Whom, we are immersed. May the infinite depths of God’s holy Love and Presence drench and fill us in our Creator, Redeemer and in His kindness shown to each of us from the Cross.