Jan 9 – The Baptism of the Lord
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, or Theophany, is the feast day commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Originally the baptism of Christ was celebrated on Epiphany, which commemorates the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Christ, and the wedding at Cana.
And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’
I first glanced through today’s readings during the last few days of Advent and found the first one from Isaiah familiar, because it echoes the messages from the first half of Advent about how we need to prepare a way in the wilderness for the coming of our Lord. Now, as we mark the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, I assume that this passage serves a slightly different purpose. Like the beginning of an exciting movie, it serves as an ‘introduction’ of God’s promise to save us, and sets the premise for the Gospel which shows us how Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Although I understand that Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season, I have always viewed today’s feast as the real end since it marks the moment Jesus embarks on His mission (or His first day at work). Indeed, now that the days of Advent anticipation and Christmas celebration are well and truly behind us (sigh), perhaps we can also regard today as our first day back at ‘work’ to bring Jesus’ love and light to those around us. The second reading offers some guidance on how we can do this as we transition to Ordinary Time, in calling on us to “reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly”. To be honest, these sound like high-level New Year’s Eve resolutions which are even more challenging to sustain than the usual ones to sleep earlier or exercise more, though I do acknowledge they have a greater impact on our spiritual, mental and physical health!
Maybe then we can take heart from the Gospel. A few years ago, I was quite struck by a comment Henri Nouwen made (in the book ‘Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith’) that Jesus began his ministry with the knowledge that He is God’s Beloved son. We too are God’s beloved children through His infinite love and generosity (and not through any effort of our own), and He looks at us with far more love than we can ever imagine. This is a glorious truth which can give us hope and strength as we attempt, through our ups and downs, to focus on God’s faithfulness and His presence among us (and live out those near-impossible resolutions) in the year ahead. After all, the movie of how God came to save us is always worth rewatching!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)
Prayer: Lord, we praise you for your plan to save us and bring us into Your family through our baptism. Help us to cherish our identity as Your children, and to be more aware of the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we thank you for the graces you have given us over the Christmas season. May we always be grateful for the grace to start anew today and every day.