The Baptism of the Lord
By Marilena Berardinelli
Today the church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus and concludes the Christmas Season. Contrary to mainstream culture, who has long since placed their Christmas trees at the curb and are now eying the Valentine’s Day treats and gifts already displayed on store shelves, the Christian community has for the last twenty days celebrated the mystery of Christ’s coming in the world. For the last three weeks we have lived in the hope and joy of the Incarnation.
The placement of the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus at the end of Christmas Season emphasizes the biblical narrative begun on Christmas Eve. The Word became flesh as a fragile baby not a powerful king; born in the smallest of Israel’s cities not the grandeur of Jerusalem and grew-up not with kingly wealth, but in the poverty of the insignificant village of Nazareth. For thirty years Jesus lived in obscurity and his introduction to public ministry was made not with fanfare, but among the sinners seeking John’s baptism of repentance.
The gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism reaffirm that this Jesus, who shares fully in our human condition, is also fully God: “You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Therefore, when we are baptized the beginning of this same divine life is sown in us. The Baptism of the Lord bookends the feast of the first incarnation and propels us to ponder Jesus’ second incarnation, when that Word assumes the mystical body – us. Christ in us, is the vehicle by which God continues to transform the world.
At St. Basil’s we celebrate about 40 baptisms a year within our Sunday liturgies. It is easy to become a bystander in these celebrations. Perhaps however, we can see in each of these baptisms an opportunity to examine how we are nurturing the divine life within us. How are we cooperating with God’s desire to break into the world each day, again and again? How are we, the mystical body of Christ, exercising our gifts, talents and charisms to engage and realize God’s mission in the world?
Christ has no body here on earth but yours;
No hands, but yours.
No feet, but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ looks with compassion on the world.
Yours are the feet with which
Christ goes about doing good in the world.
Yours are the hands with which
Christ blesses the people of the world.
(Saint Teresa of Avila)
Titus 2.11-14; 3.4-7
Luke 3.15-16, 21-22