Celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle B
1. Isaiah 55, 1-11
- More water, abundance of water, is laid before us immediately. All you who are thirsty,
come to the water! What an appropriate reading for this commemoration of the baptism of Jesus.
I remind everyone of the abundance God gives.
- I look on
this reading as the reverse side of the covenant God has made with us, the covenant Jesus has made in his blood.
God invites Israel to come to the feast and be filled with good things, eating well and delighting in rich
- The reading is entirely an oracle of the prophet, in the voice of God. I remind the assembly that
this covenant is not made in our image and to our expectations.
- Central point: our ways are not God’s ways.
We are being introduced to a higher plane of existence. And God delivers. We
only see the results when time has passed and the rain has time to water the earth and make it fruitful. This
summary point comes toward the end of the reading, and I must be attentive to it when it comes.
- Message for our
assembly: God has worked wonderful things through his son Jesus, just as he has spread the feast of this reading.
Let us come and take part, let us seek the Lord and call him.
- I will challenge myself: On
a day of great abundance of water, I will make this feast so appetizing that my listeners will remember it.
2. I John 5, 1-9
- I begin reading
from the first letter of John. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.
are some verbs that on first hearing sound disconnected: believe, love, obey.
This literal translation does not help to clarify but at least it does not obscure either. I will
need fifteen or so readings to make it run smoothly.
- I have a sense that all these phrases, which will sound disjoint in the voice of a poorly
prepared reader, recapitulate in many ways our life together in community. First there is community of
the Father and the one begotten by him, then of God and the children of God.
It is a message about the community of faith, where love of God reveals love of neighbor. They are
for all intents and purposes the same thing! We know that we love the children of God when we love
- It sounds almost like a litany. The believers are begotten by God and
they conquer the world. We love God and God’s children, so we keep God’s commandments,
especially the greatest commandment of love. Above all, we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
- In a time of doubt we
know. I want to make John’s short phrase my own today.
- When I read the one who believes that Jesus is the Son
of God, I am looking ahead to today’s Gospel passageI pray as I read that my church will have its own faith
come the final words: The one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ. If I speak
them decisively my listeners will recall the water and blood that issued from his side at his death. I
notice that the apostle insists on both: not by water alone but by water and blood. Let
me just insist on this distinction, and let the homilist interpret it further for the assembly.
- Climax: The victory that conquers
the world is our faith.
- Message for our assembly: Be encouraged by the warm words
of the apostle. When he says: not burdensome, he means ‘not overpowering’
or ‘not impossible.’ And he repeats the phrase conquers the world three times
to show that our life in Christ is a life of possibilities. Why am I reminded of those
hard sayings of Jesus?
- I will challenge myself: To take my time as I make the necessary connections between commandments,
love, faith, overcoming, and the Spirit who testifies.
- Mark 1, 7-11
- In each of the Gospels, the climax is the declaration that Jesus is my Son.
Whenever I say it, with its accompanying images of the heavens torn open and the Spirit descending, I raise the account
to the level of God's presence.
- The message for our assembly:
to identify with Jesus through our own baptism.
- I will challenge
myself: to represent the wondrous appearance of God to Jesus, as I in my life have been blessed with a sense of God's
- Here is the oldest account we have of John's baptism
- Following Matthew and John, we are accustomed to thinking
of it as a fully public event, where the sense of God's presence is felt by John and perhaps the others present.
But Mark's account is mostly concerned with Jesus himself: He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending
- We begin the reading with an expectation of
someone great who is coming, someone more powerful than John. It takes God to show us who that is. You
are my beloved Son. God speaks directly to Jesus, which is also the account of Luke.
Word to Eucharist: Jesus certainly saw the Spirit; do we? Does the Spirit
show us more than a simple procession?
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