Jesus accepts our humanity and shares his divinity
Posted: Thu, 07 Jan 2021 14:57
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB looks at the meaning of Jesus' baptism, in this Sunday's Gospel: Mark 1: 7 - 11. Image: John Nava - Baptism of Christ, Tapestry at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, USA.
Today we celebrate the feast of Baptism of Jesus, which might seem strange. I remember an old Bishop getting up to preach on this feast when I was at school: "We don't know why Jesus was baptised," he began, "but thank God he was!" Funnily enough I cannot remember anything else about the sermon, but it did make me wonder why the perfect one needed a baptism of forgiveness? In Mark's account that begins his Gospel, we presented with the great Advent saint, John the Baptist.
He is seen as the humble one, not even worthy to undo the sandal straps of Jesus. He symbolically uses water as sign of the refreshing forgiveness of God, while the Messiah will bring the gift the Holy Spirit to transform the world. In the meantime, Jesus, the sinless one enters the water and fully identifies with those seeking forgiveness from God. This is a true sign of the strength of incarnation. These past few weeks have been a non-stop rollercoaster of Christmas, but now that the decorations are down, and with no tinsel or lights to distract us, we can really concentrate on the reality of incarnation in our lives.
God does not stand on the sidelines or the banks of the Jordan, but chooses to be fully involved and immersed in the life of the world. Jesus did not sin but needed to identify himself with all of humanity—all of humanity, not just all the good things in the world, but the burden of all sin, wars, desolation, pandemics, and all the awful things that have happened down through the centuries—he carries that with him. He will be one with human beings, sharing in their greatness, but also in their grief. He does that, so that walking out of the water, he has accepted our humanity and shares with us his divinity. He is the Son, our brother; we are the daughters and sons of a loving Father. In that rising out of the water, his Father can look down and exclaim, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." In this feast, we have yet another Epiphany or revelation of who Jesus is: the BELOVED of God who invites us all in to share that love.
Today is that challenge for each of us to be equally involved in the life of the world. Sadly there are those Christians who can only see the world as some sort of evil place that we should have nothing to do with. With such an attitude, Church then becomes some sort of sanctuary, a 'spiritual Disneyland' where we can escape to on a Sunday. Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, reminds us of the GOODNESS of creation. We are called to share that goodness with those we meet during this week.
Please do not stand on the sidelines this week—get involved. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a day for us to give thanks to God for all his wonderful gifts. We thank him above all for the gift of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; for all his redeeming work; for the gift of our baptism into him.
Today is an ideal time to renew, as a family, your baptismal vows—so often made for us when we were infants. Share with your children and grandchildren the beauty of their baptismal day—bring out the photographs and remind them who their God-parents are. Today is the ideal day to get in touch with your God-children and remind them how special they are. After mass, why not visit the baptismal font, usually found at the entrance of your church, as a symbol of welcome into the community? You can always place a bowl of water on your home altar if you are joining online.
Today is also an occasion for us to renew our resolution not to cast all these gifts away; not to be careless with the treasures we have received. Today, we commit ourselves once again to conversion of heart; to putting away from us our habits of sin; to live as befits the blessed children of God. We need to be in dialogue with the global community more than ever in these days as we move on from COVID-19—we have to do this together. Francis encourages this approach:
This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.
Pope Francis, interview with Eugenio Scalfari in La Repubblica, 1 October 2013
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB