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. Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
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. Since God becoming one of us in Jesus in the Incarnation 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 ordinalis (“ordered” as with numbers in a series or “ordinal numbers”) and, before that, ordo, ‘order.’ The Greek equivalent of ordo is the term logos, which is used by St. John in his Gospel to describe Jesus: “In the beginning was the Logos. And the Logos was with God. And the Logos was God.” St. John the Evangelist then goes on to describe the ministry of St. John the Baptist – a description that, fittingly for today’s feast, ends with the Baptism of the Lord.
We are in ordered time – the time of the eternal Logos, and therefore are called to see how God brings order to the time that we are in. This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a great initial event for this ordered time, and gives us a fitting 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, and anyone who has ever experienced any home damage due to natural causes understands very clearly the difference between order and chaos. 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 new year 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 lives of those with whom we come in contact. And let us do so by imitating the humility of a sinless Man Who, despite being the Incarnation of the eternal Logos, was willing to submit to the waters of Baptism as the means whereby order could begin to be restored to a chaotic world.