Baptism of the Lord B21
Year B Gospel readings in Ordinary Time are taken from Mark. The first thing you’ll notice there’s no account of Jesus’ birth and no mention that John the Baptist and Jesus were related. A second aspect of Mark’s Gospel is how often he uses the phrase “at once” or “immediately”, a total of 31 times (I counted!). It seems as Jesus was in a hurry, driven to act, teach and heal. A third characteristic is what is called “the Messianic Secret”. Mark has only demons (and those who read his Gospel) recognize Jesus for who he is. When Peter finally says in Chapter 8 “You are the Christ”, Jesus gave him and the rest of the disciples a strict order not to tell anyone about him. Jesus said the same thing to Peter, James, and John after the Transfiguration. And the women who went to the tomb and noticed the stone rolled away from the entrance and saw a young man in a white robe who addressed them saying that Jesus has risen, ran away frightened, as one translation has it, out of their wits and said nothing to anyone. It’s almost as if Mark is telling us to make up our own minds about Jesus. Is he the Christ, or not?
After that background, we’ll go back to the beginning of the Gospel with the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance. Almost casually Mark remarks that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and is baptized by John with no conversation between the two, no discussion as to why Jesus sought John’s baptism. As Jesus came up from the water, he, and only he alone, saw the heavens being torn open, the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him, and a voice proclaiming: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
This was for Jesus a personal epiphany, a revelation that affirmed his relationship with God and set him on the path of public ministry. Everything he does from now on is to reveal God’s love, mercy and compassion toward the human race.
What has this to do with us? The reading from 1st Letter of John says that “everybody who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God”. We are beloved children with whom God is well pleased.
While it’s nice to think of being the beloved of God, we can’t just glory in that fact. Every time God gives a gift, God expects it to be used for others. It is the responsibility and the privilege of all the baptized. Everything we say or do should reveal God’s power to transform our lives, or better yet, to reveal God’s action in our lives, in the lives of others, and in our world.
Today we should reflect on our own baptism. Do you know when you were baptized and by whom? It was an important day in our life of faith, the day we became members of Christ’s body, the Church and given the task of proclaiming Christ, if not to the nations, at least to the people we meet.