The Baptism of the Lord
First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10 or Psalm 104:1-4, 24-25, 27-30
Second Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38 or St. Paul’s Letter to Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7
Gospel: According to St. Mark 1:7-11
Today concludes the Christmas Season and brings us to the beginning of Ordinary Time. It might seem that ‘Ordinary Time’ doesn’t fit in with the spirit of the day or the intention of those who chose the name for the time between Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. Because the Incarnation, God becoming one of us in Jesus, is – as the sports pundits like to say – a game changer, any time that comes after the Incarnation can never be called ordinary. So what’s the reason for us entering Ordinary Time?
The word ‘ordinary’ comes from the Latin word ordo, ‘order.’ We are in ordered time and therefore are called to see how God brings order to the time that we are in, and this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a great initial event to give a context for that order. The baptism by John in the Jordan River initiates the public ministry of Jesus; it reveals Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. For us, baptism performs a similar task: it initiates us into the ministry of Jesus; it reveals us as Christians – followers of the Messiah, the Anointed One.
The opposite of order is chaos. Sadly, our country has over the past months experienced chaos in a number of disturbing incidents from coast to coast, culminating with the takeover of the Capitol. This is what happens when logos – logic, reason, order – is removed and chaos reigns in its place. This is also what happens when those who claim to be followers of the Logos Incarnate, Jesus Christ, choose to follow the mob and try to justify their actions because an injustice had been done and their voices – whether those voices came from the left or from the right – were being ignored.
When each Christian, no matter her or his political leanings, is baptized there is a cleansing of disorder and a bestowal of order. In the life of a newly baptized infant the order might not be seen, yet it is there and it is real. That child is, like all Christians, someone who in the moment of baptism had a voice from heaven say, “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”
The public ministry of Jesus included both teachings and miracles, and in these He gave us a dual legacy that we are called to uphold. All of the baptized are called to know and pass on what Jesus has taught – in its entirety, including the hard parts – but always to pass it on in love and charity, keeping in mind that those who most need to hear the hard parts are usually the most wounded and in need of the miracle of God’s love and mercy.
So as we begin this year and enter ordered time, let us concentrate our efforts on leaving behind all of the bad that accumulated in 2020. Let us take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to live out our legacy as beloved children of God. Let us do all in our power to bring order into the chaos of the world and of the lives of those with whom we come in contact. And let us do so by imitating the humility of a sinless Man Who submitted to the waters of baptism as an act that brought order to a chaotic world. Only then can we hope that God will look at our lives and say, “You are My beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”