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Baptism (B)

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Readings for the Celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, Cycle B

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 fare.
  • 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. 
  • There 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 God. 
  • 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 reinforced.
  • Then 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. 

 Gospel - 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 presence.
  • Here is the oldest account we have of John's baptism of Jesus.
  • 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 upon him.
  • 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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