Last Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, when we remembered how wise men or magi from the east came to the child Jesus and paid Him homage. These magi, represent the non-Jews (Gentiles) and were a sign that the “Word made flesh” did not come just for the chosen people of Israel, but that the Word would be made available to all the people of the earth. Epiphany means the manifestation (or showing in plain sight) of God. Today’s Gospel has another epiphany, in the Baptism of Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is revealed as the Son of God as he rises from the waters of the River Jordan.
Jesus did not need baptism, as He never sinned, Jesus was baptised as an example for us to follow. On the website Catholic Answers, Cale Clark writes that at His Baptism “Instead of sin being removed from Jesus the waters were sanctified by his immersion”.1
In his book Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI wrote that Jesus’ baptism symbolises both death and life
On the one hand, immersion into the waters is a symbol of death, which recalls the death symbolism of the annihilating, destructive power of the ocean flood. The ancient mind perceived the ocean as a permanent threat to the cosmos, to the earth; it was the primeval flood that might submerge all life . . . But the flowing waters of the river are above all a symbol of life (15-16).2
The other readings fully support the Gospel today. Isaiah speaks about the flowing waters and emphasises what is really important in life. We are advised to not waste our resources on things which fail to satisfy and told to listen; pay attention to the Lord and our souls will be satisfied. Isaiah reminded his listeners that God has made an eternal covenant, that a Son of David will be a leader who will master other nations. People who they never knew, will come to them for the sake of The Lord. Isaiah even gives an outline of how this will happen – he tells us that people will change their ways, they will turn back to God who will forgive them. He says that the Word of God will come to the earth and succeed in doing what it has to do. God’s word will plant the seeds, water them and bear fruit.
St John talks about having three witnesses to support the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The three witnesses are the Spirit, the water and the blood. The Spirit which Jesus left us as His Advocate, the water of our baptism and the water which flowed from Jesus’ side along with his blood bare witness to Jesus. St John reminds us that the witnesses we have here are not human witnesses; but God Himself. God’s testimony can be found in today’s Gospel – “You are my Son, my Beloved; my favour rests on you” (Mark 1:11).
When we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus we remember our own Baptism, for many of us this happened when we were babies and we may struggle to remember the date. But I would like to suggest that it is a date which we should remember in a similar way to that of our birthday. It is the day we became an adopted brother or sister of Christ. So, I would encourage everyone to find out the date of their Baptism and celebrate its anniversary as you would your birthday. This sentence has sparked a search in my house to find my certificate to get the precise date of my Baptism.
Celebrating Baptisms are some of the most joyful blessings I have as a deacon. Since last year my wife Pam and I, have been getting to know the families preparing for Baptism, as we have been organising the Baptism Preparation Course. The 2021 programme starts in February and we will be running it online until the pandemic restrictions are lifted. At these sessions we go through presentations which help parents and Godparents to understand better the full meaning of Baptism and the promises they are committing to.
I would like to encourage us all to remember the promises made at our own Baptism. If we were young then the promises were probably made on our behalf by our parents, Godparents or Sponsors. There is a promise to reject Satan and all his works, there is a promise to believe in God our Creator, there is a promise to believe in Jesus, Son of Mary and Son of God and there is a promise to believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. These promises we recall every Sunday at Mass, but do we ever sit and ponder on them? How do we express our rejection of Satan and all his works? How do we express our belief in the Holy Trinity, in the Church and in the Sacraments of the Church? If we were to mark ourselves how many out of ten would you give yourself? I would struggle to give myself a pass mark. This indicates to me that I need to try harder. I need to express my faith more in action than in the words I use.
I quoted earlier from Cale Clark, who writes for the ‘Catholic Answers website, I’d like to finish with what he says about our Baptism
The baptism of the Lord also reminds us, of course, of our own baptism. The Church teaches that baptism not only lets us participate in Jesus’ victory over sin and death, but calls us to our own personal holiness and apostolate (sharing our faith). When you boil it all down, this is the essence of how we fulfil our baptismal mandate to become saints.
Who are the saints? The word “saint” derives from the Greek term hagios, which means “the holy ones.” Being a holy person just means being, with God’s considerable help, the person you were created to be.
The Bible says, “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14, NIV). This is also why we need to share our faith! If we want everyone we know and love to get to heaven, if we want them to see Jesus, they must become saints as well—no exceptions.
The world tends to value the letters at the end of people’s names—M.D., M.B.A., Ph.D. But Catholics care most of all about the letters we hope one day will come before our names: “St.” This was the ultimate reason the Lord was baptised, establishing the sacrament, and it’s why we are baptised, too.”
I hope you all have a blessed week and that you and your families stay safe.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- All those who are sick at this time.
- All those seeking direction in their lives.
- Our doctors, nurses, care workers and health workers who are under extreme pressure at the moment.
- Those who are preparing for Baptism or who are waiting for a date to be agreed.
- Our parents, Godparents and everyone else who have supported us on our faith journey.
2 Joseph Ratzinger,