January 12, 2020: The Baptism of the Lord
Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Today, the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, the Gospel (Mt 3:13-17) describes the scene which occurred at the River Jordan: Jesus, too, is in the midst of the penitent crowd which approaches John the Baptist to receive baptism. He stood in line. John would like to prevent him from [being baptized], saying: “I need to be baptized by you” (3:14). The Baptist, indeed, is aware of the great distance there is between him and Jesus. But Jesus has come precisely to bridge the gap between man and God: if He is completely on God’s side, He is also completely on mankind’s side, and reunites what had been separated. For this reason he asks John to baptize him, so that all righteousness may be fulfilled (cf. v. 15), namely, that the plan of God may be fulfilled, the plan which passes by way of obedience and solidarity with fragile and sinful mankind, the way of humility and of God’s full closeness to his children. Because God is very close to us, very close!
At the moment in which Jesus, baptized by John, comes out of the waters of the River Jordan, the voice of God the Father is heard from on high: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (v. 17). At the same time the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, alights upon Jesus, who publicly begins his mission of salvation; a mission characterized by a manner: the way of a humble and gentle servant, armed only with the power of truth, as Isaiah had prophesied: “He will not cry or lift up his voice, … a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice” (42:2-3). A humble and gentle servant.
This is Jesus’ way, as well as the manner of Christ’s disciples’ missionary work: To proclaim the Gospel with gentleness, but also firmness, without shouting, without reprimanding anyone, but gently and firmly, without arrogance or imposition. The true mission is never proselytism, but drawing people to Christ. But how? How is this attraction to Christ achieved? With one’s own witness, starting from the unwavering union with him in prayer, in adoration and in concrete works of charity, which is service to Jesus present in the least of his brothers and sisters. In imitation of Jesus, the good and merciful Shepherd, and moved by his grace, we are called to make our life a joyous testimony that illuminates the way, that brings hope and love.
This feast makes us rediscover the gift and the beauty of being a community of baptized, that is, of sinners — we all are sinners — saved by the grace of Christ, truly integrated, by the work of the Holy Spirit, in the filial relationship of Jesus with the Father, welcomed into the bosom of Mother Church, making possible a brotherhood that knows no barriers or borders.
May the Virgin Mary help all of us Christians to maintain an ever keen and grateful awareness of our own Baptism and to faithfully follow the path opened by this Sacrament of our rebirth. Ever with humility, gentleness and firmness. Pope Francis Baptism of the Lord 2017 (Cycle A readings)
First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Psalm: 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death. Already he is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins.234 The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him”. Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation. (536) From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
“God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34; cf. Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9), since all people have the same dignity as creatures made in his image and likeness. The Incarnation of the Son of God shows the equality of all people with regard to dignity: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28; cf. Rom 10:12; 1 Cor 12:13, Col 3:11).
Since something of the glory of God shines on the face of every person, the dignity of every person before God is the basis of the dignity of man before other men. Moreover, this is the ultimate foundation of the radical equality and brotherhood among all people, regardless of their race, nation, sex, origin, culture, or class. (144)
Working for peace can never be separated from announcing the Gospel, which is in fact the “good news of peace” (Acts 10:36; cf. Eph 6:15) addressed to all men and women. At the centre of “the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15) remains the mystery of the cross, because peace is born of Christ’s sacrifice (cf. Is 53:5) — “Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we were healed”. The crucified Jesus has overcome divisions, re-establishing peace and reconciliation, precisely through the cross, “thereby bringing the hostility to an end” (Eph 2:16) and bringing the salvation of the Resurrection to mankind. (493)
Jesus opted to be numbered among humanity in repatriation for humanity’s iniquities. An opening up of grace, the flowing of the Holy Spirit. The initial sacramental grace opening up the fullness of communion with the Divine. A sacrificial offering showing no partiality, but an invitation to every nation’s people acting upright to the Lord. An invitation to go around doing good, mitigating oppression, as we strive to follow the example of the Lord. For as God was with Him, He is with us, if we surrender to partake in the grace. The opportunity to opt for receiving the blessings of peace, a refrain mighty and majestic, worthy of a King. Resiliency of a bruised reed, a smoldering wick unwilling to be snuffed out completely. Embers enflaming victory embedded in spiritual and societal justice lighting humanity’s path. Arising people from spiritual dungeons, spiritual prisons of doubt, despair, anxiety, fear, sorrow, worn down by not embracing God’s forgiveness to the illumination of Christ. Not achieved in triumphant edicts, boisterous babble, inept human monarchies, failures from trusting military might, but the humility of a servant resolute for equity. A peace flowing from the water of His baptism that we only must seek to immerse ourselves in. A holy covenant fitting for us to join in with God’s beloved Son, our beloved brother.
Individual Reflection: Matthew 3:13-17
Pope Francis has designated the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, a celebration of the Word of the Lord. How can you suggest your parish celebrates this creatively?
Family Reflection:y: Acts 10:34-38
January is National Poverty Awareness Month. How will your family help to raise awareness and work to alleviate poverty in your community?
Prayer: Reflect on your baptismal promises and how you articulate them by the way you live your life
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Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
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List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born January 10, 2020 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.