The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the bridge between the Christmas season and Ordinary Time which begins on Monday. Today we celebrate the event which clearly manifests Jesus’ mission as Beloved Son and Servant.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah foretells the coming of a servant who will establish God’s justice on the earth that will be for all people. St. Peter describes God’s goodness and mercy to all people which is so evident in the life of Jesus. And John the Baptist honestly describes himself as simply the messenger — one who prepares the way for Jesus who will lead others to share in God’s life.
At his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus is clearly the beloved Son upon whom God’s favor rests. In accepting baptism, Jesus signifies his willingness to undertake the mission the Father has given him to do. At our baptism, we, too, were claimed as God’s beloved sons and daughters. We live out our mission in a variety of vocations — as married couples, single adults, priests, or religious. Baptism for each of us was the beginning of a lifetime of openness to God’s grace and carrying out the tasks God has given to each of us.
There may still be remnants of Christmas decorations in the church this week, but today the baptismal font is decorated as the visual focus. Some parishes have infants to be baptized this week. If your parish doesn’t have a baptism, the entrance rite will probably include the renewal of baptismal promises and the sprinkling with holy water as a reminder of the significance of Jesus’ baptism and our own.
Usually we profess the Nicene Creed after the Gospel and the homily. However, when the sprinkling rite includes renewal of baptismal promises, the Creed is not recited later.
The Opening Prayer of the Mass prepares us for the images in the Gospel, recalling the descent of the Spirit and the voice of God over the waters of the Jordan. We ask that we who are children born of water and the Spirit might be faithful to our calling, and follow Christ’s path of service.
The same images echo throughout the Preface as we praise God for the signs and wonders at the Jordan, for God’s voice which awakened faith in the Word made flesh, and for the Spirit who revealed Jesus as the servant, sent to bring the good news of salvation to the poor.
Many of the traditional hymns for the feast carry the same images, especially “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” and “As With Gladness.” As we bless ourselves with holy water when we enter the church, may this simple action remind us of the great significance of our baptism and the accompanying commitment we made to serve God’s people.
Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay.