The Baptism of Jesus
… marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. In the southern hemisphere, it generally coincides with the end of the summer holidays, a return to work and to the regular patterns of life.
Most of us have been lucky enough to get some ‘down time’ after Christmas, time to reflect on the past year, alone or with loved ones, and to set goals for the year ahead, to move into Ordinary Time with renewed life and vigour.
It will be a different sort of Ordinary Time for some dear friends of mine who face the coming year without a much loved family member – an exemplary and faith-filled husband, father, son, brother, friend and mentor who, just ten days ago, met an untimely death.
Sudden death, especially of one so young, confronts us all with the big questions of life: what we are doing here; what makes a life worthwhile; what is really important.
The baptism story is an initiation or commissioning story. It needs to be heard against the backdrop of the first reading from Isaiah 42. Jesus is God’s chosen one on whom God’s Spirit rests.
The voice of God commissions him to bring forth justice, sensitively and without fanfare; to be a light to the peoples; to open the eyes of the blind and to set the captives free. A graced and gracious life consists in fulfilling such a mission.
God’s words are addressed to all who listen to the gospel: ‘This is my beloved Son….’ Jesus understands his mission in terms of righteousness or right relationship. His insistence that John baptise him despite the latter’s reluctance points to the reversal of values that will characterise his mission.
There is no pursuit of status or personal aggrandizement in a gospel way of life. Right relationship, a good life, lies rather in mutual respect and in faithful service of the needy in our world.