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Bulletin: January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

It may seem obvious that the theme for the Baptism of the Lord is “water,” but when one spends time with the readings today, one can see many different connotations for that water and its power. Isaiah calls the poor who are thirsty and tired to come to the water and take the spiritual food and drink that will be provided if we but seek the Lord. Here, God is both destination and consolation. The responsorial psalm follows suit with the image of drawing water from the springs of salvation. 1 John takes us to the reality of Christ as eucharist: not only Jesus’ birth and baptism, but his death, as we hear that Jesus came “by water and by blood.” The Gospel depicts John baptizing Jesus with water, and the Spirit baptizing Jesus. We experience both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Indeed, water has much power to save us.


When we go to a pop music concert, there is often an opening act. Usually they are a young group on their way up, or older musicians who are past their prime and still hanging on in the business. This is indeed a hard job. In the comedy world it is the same thing. You have to warm up the crowd. You are not who they are coming to see, and audiences may be unresponsive, come in late, or not pay a lot of attention. Yet John had no problem being the opening act, the messenger, the harbinger of faith for Jesus. He was very devout in his faith and knew what his role was. Many Jews were actively seeking a messiah, and he was quick to let them know that he was not the one for whom they were waiting. “I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Yet he conducted his ministry with faith and hope.


As John humbly carried out his mission and Jesus accepted this simple baptism by John, the Holy Spirit indeed came down upon Jesus, and God proclaimed for the first time, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Thus Jesus began his formal ministry. There must have been much that he already knew, but also much that he uncovered each day in his encounters with the disciples and the crowds. As he responded “yes” to the Father over and over, his thirst was quenched and his spirit strengthened.

How many times do we witness baptisms in the parish? The priest ministers with simple elements of water and oil, but the Spirit is called down each time. Every time we participate, we are experiencing the message, experiencing the call again. How many times have we blessed ourselves with holy water, or participated in a sprinkling rite? Yet in these days, when church fonts are empty due to safety precautions, we need to remember those other times, trust in God, and sing the prayer of Isaiah in our hearts about drawing the water joyfully. We must trust in the message. We must become the message of God’s saving action through our baptism and our lives.

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