Appreciating Christ’s Baptism as Revelation, ours as Transformation
Sunday January 9, 2022
FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
The Gospel today shows God the Father introducing Jesus to the world: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We claim the same identity for ourselves, with this difference: we are children of God, not by nature, but by a special kind of “adoption” that is the grace, the “favor,” of actually sharing in the divine life of Christ. Therefore, for us it is not natural to act on the level of God. We can, but only if we choose to act by the Spirit given to us. So we pray that the Father will always be well pleased” with us by keeping us “faithful to our calling.”
At his Baptism, we see Jesus introduced to the world by the Father’s voice and the Spirit’s descent. We who “become Christ” by Baptism need to be identified, introduced to the world in the same way. It is not enough that the Father, speaking through the Church, claims us as his children and Jesus gives us his name as Christians. It also has to be visible to others that God is “anointing us” with his Spirit to do for the world what Jesus came to do. We, as Christ’s body on earth, are “sent to bring to the poor the good news of salvation.”
When the Father introduced Jesus as his “beloved Son” the second time — when Jesus was transfigured on the mountain — Matthew, Mark and Luke all say he added the words, “Listen to him.” The point is pretty clear: If we have been properly introduced to Jesus, we will be listening to him; that is, to his words. In this age of literacy, to “listen” includes to read. So if we are listening, we are reading Scripture. If we are not reading Scripture we are not listening. And if we are not listening, we do not know Jesus Christ.
Strong words. In the Second Vatican Council the Church made them her own by quoting St. Jerome: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” If we are ignorant of Christ, we have not heard the Good News. And so the Church “earnestly and specifically urges all the Christian faithful... to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scripture the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ.”
Isaiah 42: 1-7 makes the call to “be Christ” about as inspiring as it gets. He describes first what the Messiah will be; then how he is going to fulfill his mission, then what that mission is. The Messiah, God says, “is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him.”
Wouldn’t you like God to say this of you? Then be the “messiah of the Messiah,” anointed in Baptism to let Jesus continue his saving work in you.
Daily Practice: Read at least 5 minutes of scripture each day.
Prayer: Lord, teach me so that I may act as your body each day.