Baptism of the Lord
By: Ann Marie Tedesco
I wonder what is it about baptism that would cause Jesus to be washed in the water of the Jordan River by John the Baptist who said he was not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals? Perhaps it is the same as what caused Jesus to go away in private and pray to the Father, or to go to the synagogue, or to the Temple on high holidays—It reveals Jesus’ humble humanity and the glory of His Divinity united with the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love.In the Gospel reading today, after Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on Him and a voice called Him “My Son, the Beloved”. God’s love was so immediate and would give Jesus’ a new direction in life, to go to the desert and then begin a life that was very public. At Baptism we received new life. What new direction does it take us now? With faith, we know that we received sanctifying grace at that time. The grace of God which is generous and pure love which is to sanctify and make us holy; for we too are the beloved. We received a new life in Christ. This is what we were created for, to be in
the image and likeness of God. The new life is one of love. A life that attempts to emulate the perfect relationship of love that is the Trinity. This is what we are called to; a relationship of love of God and neighbour.Last Sunday we celebrated the Epiphany which recounted the journey of the three Wise Men to Bethlehem. Once the Wise Men had encountered Jesus, they took a different and new direction returning home. Every day we are challenged to go in different directions, but like the Wise Men, having encountered Jesus in Baptism, we journey in a new direction with a new heart and continue to encounter Jesus through the Sacraments, through Scripture, through people and all of creation, giving us a heart that is meant to love as a new creation in the image of God.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself.” 2 Cor 5:17-18 It is in prayerful silence that we are open to receive the free gift of God’s grace that enables us to live a life of holiness. Gifts need to be received not put on a shelf and forgotten. Prayer opens our hearts to be receptive to God’s love and pass that on to others. How do we pass it on to others? We pass love on by being a healing and forgiving presence and by fostering the good in our neighbours; not by challenging one’s character or reputation or by recounting other people’s failings. Pope Francis recently said in a homily that gossip is “a plague”. We are not meant to tear down our neighbour and be divisive, but to build up the Body of Christ. Through Baptism our failings are forgiven and we are given new life. This new life keeps us on a path where we continue to seek forgiveness and to forgive, always striving to be better in our relationships. One of the readings from the celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism is from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel. The Lord said, “I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put My Spirit in you, and make you keep My laws and sincerely respect My observances…You shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:26, 28
During this very extraordinary time when the whole world is being affected by a pandemic, what new direction is God taking His people? How are we encountering God in this? Our lives have changed. Some of us work from home; others are in the workplace with masks, continually washing their hands and keeping distance from others; some are frontline workers helping those who are suffering the effects of the
pandemic; others grieve. It gives us time to pause and reflect on what matters—our health, the yearning to be with our loved ones, to receive the Eucharist. This is a time of silence, an opportunity for prayer, to contemplate. When this is over, which hopefully it will be soon, will it take us in a new direction? Will it give us a new heart?