Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (B)
The voice of the Father at the baptism of Jesus confirms that He is God’s beloved Son in whom God is well pleased. While at Christmas God came to us as a fragile baby, at the scene of the Baptism of Jesus, He comes to us as a man so that we can face ourselves as adults and mature Christians, and decide to follow Him.
After His Baptism, Jesus was led to the desert and fasted for 40 days (Mk 1: 12-13) to prepare for His ministry. Immediately after that, He came to Galilee to proclaim the Gospel:
This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel (Mk 1: 15).
It was at this time that He called His first disciples, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk 1: 17).
Baptism carries several effects for us: a) it takes away original sin and sins that may have been committed; b) it incorporates us into the Body of Christ, the Church; c) it makes us Temples of the Holy Spirit; d) it makes us disciples of Jesus, the head of His Body, the Church; and e) it gives us a seal to God’s friendship and to eternal life. Our catechism teaches us that
Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship (CCC 1216).
The Baptism of Jesus is an act of love. For John, the evangelist, love is associated with obedience. Without obedience in any relationship, love is just a word that is said and disappears in the air. For John, in our second reading today, (a) love is obeying God’s commandments, and “His commandments are not burdensome” (1Jn 5: 3); (b) Love of God is to love His Son; (c) Love of God is to love His children that He has begotten. John proclaimed that if one says he loves God but hates his neighbor, he is a liar. As obedience is associated to the greatest of virtues, which is love, obedience then may be difficult but the most important to a Christian.
Alexander the Great, one of the most remarkable military leaders who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with a relatively small army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the camp. He came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death: the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is our name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct” (Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks, books.google.com).
At baptism, we become children of God and are called Christians. We need to be obedient to Him. Thus, we also need to change our conduct. The Eucharist fills us, strengthens us and gives us the direction to be faithful disciples of Jesus, and the first reading rightly proclaims, “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life” (Is 55: 3).