Gibraltar rocks. Pun intended. The Diocese of Gibraltar leaves the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord where it belongs (January 6th). That means that this Sunday, we in Gibraltar will raise our hearts and minds to the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.
The Baptism of the Lord marks the beginning of Ordinary Time (or as my old Bishop in Steubenville used to call it — “Extra-Ordinary Time,” because there’s nothing really ordinary about it!) just like Baptism marks the beginning of our lives in Christ. Baptism also marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Jesus came to St John the Baptist to be baptised before He began to gather His Twelve Apostles and preach the Good News.
This Sunday, Holy Mother Church offers us the Gospel of the Apostle Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Baptism. “As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’”
The words used by the Voice from Heaven are an allusion to the words that we’ll read in our First Reading from Isaiah: “Thus says the Lord: / Here is my servant whom I uphold, / my chosen one in whom my soul delights.”
This feast, in a poignant way, highlights the relationship of Jesus with our Father in heaven. The Lord says in Isaiah further on: “I have appointed you as a covenant of the people and light of the nations, / to open the eyes of the blind, / to free captives from prison, / and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.” These are the words of the prophecy of Isaiah in about 700 BC, and this is also the language of the Father for His Son, Jesus.
What is interesting in this passage is that the Lord calls this person “a covenant.” Normally, two persons make a covenant with each other but it is strange to call someone a covenant. However, with Jesus, it may be true. In Luke 22:20, Jesus holds a chalice and says “This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” But the blood in this chalice that He calls “the New Covenant” is Him. Therefore, He is the Covenant like it says in Isaiah.
Through the Eucharist, we participate in the New Covenant of Christ in the highest way possible. We become what we eat, as St Augustine says. We become the body of Christ. We become the covenant. But, the Eucharist is not the initial gateway to Sonship, Baptism is.
Paragraph 536 of the Catechism says this about the Baptism of the Lord:
The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death. Already he is coming to “fulfill all righteousness,” that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him.” Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”—the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed—and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.
Let us remind ourselves that, even though we might not remember the day of our salvation (see 1 Peter 3:21), that we too were plunged into the sanctifying waters that Christ Himself first sanctified through His own Baptism. As St Gregory Nazianzen reminds us, whom we celebrate this week (2nd of January) along with St Basil the Great: “Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him.”
In His Baptism, the Lord openly accepted His mission to redeem mankind through His suffering. Let us recommit ourselves to our mission that the Lord gave to us at our own baptisms: To live and die for Jesus who lived and died for us.
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
P.s. This Sunday is a good time to gather with your family or friends to renew your Baptismal Promises and renew your commitment to the Lord. Click here for a copy of the Baptismal promises. Have someone lead and everybody else respond.