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Baptism (A)

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

1. Isaiah 42, 1-4 and 6-7

  • Here is my servant.  The Lord of history is not cited in the ancient histories!  And the servant of God, described in this reading as a revelation to the nations, cannot be found there either.
  • This servant’s way is different: Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street.  I declare with a certain sense of astonishment, today and most days, that God’s ways are different from ours.
  • I also get to declare the kindness of this servant: A bruised reed he shall not break.  When I say it I will speak to my listeners who feel down on their luck, who expect nothing but severity from a just God.
  • God calls the servant to wage a campaign for the victory of justice.  This was a favorite phrase of Dr. Martin Luther King, which is another reason for me to make it ring in this assembly.  The prophet repeats it three times; let the people hear justice clearly each time.
  • The prophet referred to the people Israel as God’s servant.  Our tradition has interpreted the prophecy as fulfilled in Jesus, a ‘marginal Jew’ in the words of scholar John Meier.
  • Central point: The first words, This is my servant.  I may sound like a chief executive who announces a major appointment to the press.  The rest of the reading tells me how this servant will carry out God’s will on earth. 
  • Message for our assembly: The servant’s cause, the victory of justice, should be ours also.
  • I will challenge myself: To find my best declaiming voice to announce the victor of justice.


2. Acts 10, 34-43

  • Peter is apparently speaking in this passage to the Gentiles who came to visit him, but he might just as well be explaining to himself and other sons of Israel the truth that God shows no partiality.
  • He appeals to the faith of his listeners, just as we must do.  We continue to announce the good news of peace proclaimed through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all. 
  • This Jesus is the same Jesus of Nazareth who went about doing good works and healing all, someone whom we all knew very well, as God among us, for God was with him.
  • Central point: Whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.  This also expresses in its own way the central point of our faith.
  • The message for our assembly: Let us remember where we came from, and regain our calling as a missionary church.
  • I will challenge myself: To capture in my voice the sense of discovery that came over Peter, something that he is most eager to share with others.

 

Gospel- Matthew 3, 13-17

  • In each of the Gospels, the climax is the declaration that this 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.
  • Jesus came to John to baptized by him.  The version in Matthew is the most familiar to commentators and artists through the ages. 
  • It is a public appearance of Jesus—his first—but this is the only Synoptic account in which John recognizes him:  I need to be baptized by you. 
  • And Jesus alone is aware of the presence of God: the heavens opened to him, the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
  • Jesus senses God with his sight, his feeling, his hearing: a voice from heaven spoke.  But the voice of God speaks for everyone to hear: This is my Son, the beloved.

To the Eucharist: Let us walk to the Lord just as the humble people of Judea came to John at the Jordan.  Let us truly repent of our self-centeredness and see the neighbors with whom we say Amen.

 

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