I am certain that we all are unaware that in the earliest centuries of Church life the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord was celebrated as the most important manifestation of God's saving power. We all tend to think that Christmas was the greatest and most important feast, or perhaps it was Easter and the Feast of the Resurrection. This simply is not so. This feast of the Baptism of the Lord stood at a very special point in being significant. It is clearly obvious because all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the Baptism of the Lord as the central beginning event of their story. Perhaps some also add in the stories of the early years of Je-sus, but they are not central to the theme and message of the Gospels. Even John's Gospel, "the very different one," also makes the Baptism of Jesus a most important and watershed event. Interestingly Mark in his Gospel does not directly tell us of the Baptism but instead tells us that the heavens are torn open and that an astounding message is given. Mark clearly wants us to recognize the great significance of this event. He wants us to know that God has answered the deep yearning and searching of Israel for a Messiah. Indeed, does he not tell us that Jesus himself is "the favored one"?
As the Jews waited for the coming of the Messiah, we also wait each year during the Season of Advent to celebrate the coming of the Messiah. Advent is a time when all the prayers have the subtext or direct text of hope. Our Feasts of Christmas and Epiphany mark dramatically the coming of the Messiah and today's Gospel in startling detail tells us that the Father's favor rests on this man who is his beloved Son.
This beloved Son is of greater significance than John the Baptist, even though Jesus sought the Baptist's baptism. This seeking of John's baptism is a clear symbol of the humanity of this God made flesh and Messiah. Though the Messiah is human flesh, he is also divine as he is God's favored Son.
We do not realize that the title 'my son" is never used in the long history of Israel and this title is only now for Jesus. The revelation of this divine truth of the relationship between Father and Son is totally new. In many ways, it is a new epiphany (revealing) of our God. This revelation marks the end of John's mission and work. The Messiah, Jesus has now been fully revealed. He is the "favored Son" who lives in the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit.
We are to learn from today's Gospel that the heavens that once opened to receive and proclaim Jesus as beloved Son are open to us, and especially will always be open to us. We also learn that we who share the humanity of Jesus also share his divinity. We are now the beloved daughters and sons of our God. If we realize these truths, then our Way of Daily Life will be graced, powerful, and life-giving.
Fr. BrianBACK TO LIST