Sunday Reflection: the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

January 10, 2021

Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - January 10, 2021

“Come to the waters; listen, that you may have life.”

Today, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, as the Church brings the Advent-Christmas season to a close, we are invited by the prophet Isaiah to “come to the water” and “draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation,” and to watch as Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan River. Shepherds had worshiped the new-born savior, and the magi had offered precious gifts to the new-born king. Today, however, as he comes out of the water, the heavens are torn open, and Jesus receives the affirmation of love and the anointing with the Spirit from God above.

The One born in Bethlehem “whom we recognize as outwardly like ourselves,” is empowered to embark on his messianic mission. As the stronger and mightier one whom John the Baptist foretold, Jesus is ready to begin his mission of healing, confronting evil, renewing those who hunger and thirst, bestowing God’s generous forgiveness and mercy, and bringing justice to the downtrodden. God’s Word goes forth to bring us life, and He will do this not only in His life, teaching, and actions but also in the act of giving his very life for the sake of us all.

Today, we are invited to consider our response to this event of Jesus’ life. Isaiah's 55th chapter encourages us to seek the Lord, call on Him, appreciate the height and breadth of His thought, and allow Him to make us fruitful in our covenant relationship with Him in Christ.

The First Letter of John reminds us that by his baptism, Jesus, the one begotten and beloved by God and anointed with the Spirit, is inviting us to participate, by virtue of our baptism, in the life of the Trinity by loving God and one another.

Today’s Gospel and feast help us reflect on our own baptisms because they were also moments of identity and mission. As Christians and disciples of Christ, we are always about remembering and reflecting on the life and work of Jesus. But our baptisms call us to a more active response: to accept the life of the risen Christ in our midst and to accept our vocations and missions to be instruments of God’s presence and power, mercy and forgiveness in our world, our country, our communities, our parishes, our families – just as Christ did and continues to do through the Church.

Today, and in the days of Ordinary Time that begins this week, we would do well to ask ourselves how we understand our God-given identity. Celebrating the Baptism of the Lord, we can reflect on our own baptism as the gift of the Spirit and as a commission to live and proclaim the good news as we follow the “more powerful” One even to the powerlessness of the cross. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think about the moment we came up out of the waters of baptism – with the heavens opening and the Spirit being bestowed – and a voice that said and continues to say to us: “You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased.”