January 11, 2015 – The Baptism of the Lord
In the first reading from Isaiah, the prophet anticipates the Baptism of the Lord as God says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased.” This is echoed at the end of today’s Gospel from Mark as God proclaims to and of Jesus, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”
All of the readings on this Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord, speak to the glory of the Holy Trinity — “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” As stewards of the faith, we must strive to understand and appreciate the meaning and significance of that Trinity.
Recall that Isaiah was writing some six centuries before the birth of Christ; yet that prophet anticipates and predicts much of what are to learn and realize in the New Testament. Our Old Testament reading on this day falls into the genre of what are popularly called “Servant Songs” (The Songs of the Suffering Servant in Catholic lexicons). In fact, this reading represents the first of the Servant Songs. We are challenged to reflect upon suffering and Christ and salvation within this beautiful poem. Although we understand that suffering is part of life for all of us, it can never match the trials undergone by our Lord and Savior. We, too, are called to be servants of the Lord, and although much less is asked of us than was of Jesus, if we hope to accomplish even in some small way our calling, lives of stewardship provide the best means.
St. Peter, even though he may have faltered at times, and even though he may have been scolded by the Lord occasionally, seized the magnitude of what happened, and he as much as anyone put it in an outlook which means as much to us today as it did to those he was addressing at the house of Cornelius in our second reading from the Acts of the Apostles. In his presentation to those gathered, and to us, Peter declares “Whoever fears him (the Lord) and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” This reinforces Peter and Paul’s messages to the Gentiles that salvation is for everyone regardless of background. Peter was well prepared to deliver his message, and those listening were well prepared to hear it. How prepared are we? When the Word of God is proclaimed, we must discipline ourselves to prepare to hear it. It is not just the Word, but our ability to assimilate that Word into our lives.
The Gospel from Mark supports the reference to “servant” found in the first reading. In Revelation reference is made to the cherubim found around the throne of God, and they have four faces: a lion, an oxen calf, a human, and an eagle. Through the centuries the Church has taken those symbols and applied them to the Four Gospels. The symbol applied to St. Mark is the oxen, an animal of work and service. In many ways Mark emphasizes the works of Jesus more than the words of Jesus. It is this call to service that we find in our own summons to lives of stewardship. St. John the Baptist reminds us that we, too, have received the Holy Spirit through Baptism. Stewardship is our response to that charge, that invitation to discipleship.