10 January 2010 Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord
Isaiah 40, 1-11; Psalm 103; Ti 2, 11-14 – 3, 4-7; Luke 3, 15-22
On the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, it is not necessary to reflect on our baptism — to many of us, we hardly remember it since we were infants. The Baptism of Our Lord marks the beginning of Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Year when we reflect on different aspects of the Lord’s daily life. Therefore the context of this feast can be our own general life. I have three points.
First point. In our lives today, there are definitive stages and turning points. These are the times when we take a turn in our life’s journey. These events are like hinges. Graduations, weddings and ordinations are prime examples. It can be the time when we begin to forge our own paths apart from our families; when we start pursuing our dreams and our missions. It can be a career move with a fair amount of risk and dare. It can be entering into a serious relationship with the intent of settling down. It can also be retiring from work or getting into widowhood.
When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, he was thirty years old. Prior to this story, Jesus was twelve when he was found by Mary and Joseph at the Temple talking to the elders. No one knew what exactly happened in the eighteen years between these two accounts. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius called this period as the hidden life of Jesus. Though hidden, St. Ignatius urged every pray-er to meditate on this aspect of Jesus’ life and to derive meaning from it. The hidden life was part of Jesus’ growing years. He was an ‘ordinary’ boy; a carpenter by trade like Joseph; unknown by most people. His baptism could thus be regarded as a turning point in His life. It was His first public appearance.
Second point. Taking great risks involves an instinct. It is something that cannot be taught or predicted. You just know that it is the right time. We just don’t resign from work when we feel that it is not the right time to plunge into another career. We just don’t enter into a new stage in a relationship when we are not sure or we feel we are not yet ready. The time just comes.
Did Jesus need John’s baptism when His baptism was of the Holy Spirit? John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He was urging the people to start anew. He called people to reconcile with God by turning away from their sinful selves. John’s appearance during the time answered the needs of many who were disillusioned by the moral degradation in the Roman empire. And thus there was a spiritual movement.
Jesus found that moment as the right time for Him to begin his mission. In his growing years, He gradually discovered his uniqueness. He knew that eventually He had to leave Nazareth. By allowing John to baptize him, He would identify Himself more with the people who have been baptized. Jesus was one like us; God’s word with us.
The movement towards God that characterized the climate of His time was the right time for His first public appearance. The soil was fertile for the Good News to take root and grow.
Finally, God was always involved in every hinge in the life of Jesus. The Gospel said: “After Jesus had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” Many theologians explained that this was an inner vision, something that happens when we pray. It was God’s confirmation of Jesus’ decision to commence his mission as Messiah. In Scripture, the image that the ‘heavens are opened’ means that God visits His people (Is 63, 19). And the descent of the Holy Spirit tells us that the Spirit of God had resided in Jesus.
Today, we need to involve God in every single decision that we make, especially the crucial ones. We need to discern whether what we plan to do is indeed God’s will for us. We take these plans to prayer and present them to God. St. Ignatius says in his rules of discernment that we get to know that God has confirmed our decisions when we experience peace in our prayers. We are at peace when our hearts are totally aligned with God’s heart. Discernment thus is done always in quiet prayer. Many spiritual mystics say that we can only hear God’s voice in the silence of our hearts.
We pray that we grow in appreciation of the many turns in our lives. At the same, we pray that we will always hear God’s voice affirming that we too are His children.