7 Jan 2024 – The Baptism of the Lord

7 Jan 2024 – The Baptism of the Lord

First Reading. Isaiah 55:1-11
Come to the waters, come buy and eat
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
See, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
See, you shall call nations that you do not know,
and nations that do not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Responsorial: Isaiah 12:2-6
You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation. (R./)
Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name. (R./
Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds,
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (R./)

Acts of the Apostles (10:34-38)
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went about doing good
Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ-he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Gospel: Mark 1:7-11
As Jesus receives baptism a voice says, “You are my Son” and the Spirit rests on him
John the Baptist proclaimed,
“The one who is more powerful than I is coming
after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his
sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with
the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized
by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water,
he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove
on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.”

A clear purpose in life
I’ve had the privilege of leading several pilgrimages to the Holy Land. One of the highlights is a communal immersion up to our knees in the river Jordan, to renew the promises of our baptism. It is a moving experience when one recalls the Spirit descending, and the Father confirming each of us as his son or daughter. Many of those who experienced it remember that moment with great emotion, and use it to renew their commitment.
The baptism of Jesus is a moment of special grace in our story of salvation. Not only did he join us in our sinful state, but the Father and the Spirit are seen and heard to be there with him. The gospel uses the simple phrase that “the heavens were opened,” but it is a powerful statement. Later on, when Jesus completed his life-journey on Calvary, we read how “the veil of the Temple was rent in two.” Now at last we were free to enter the Holy of Holies. Today’s gospel is the beginning of a journey, which, through our own baptism, each of us is asked to travel. It is a journey full of purpose.
Each of us needs a sense of purpose and pattern to our Christian living. When I set out on a journey I need to have a definite idea of where I intend going, and how to make the journey. Peter summarised the purpose and pattern of Christ’s life when he said, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” We are invited to make his purpose our own.
A man was down the country travelling along by-roads where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, unsure of his directions, he decided to ask the first person he saw. When he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking he stopped the car and asked if he was on the right road to Mallow. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the Mallow road. The driver thanked him and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!’
Thoughts on Baptism
The sacrament I like celebrating the most is the sacrament of baptism. It is always a happy occasion. A young child has recently been received into their family with great joy and celebration, and now they are being received again into another family, the family of the church. In being received into this family, the children become our brothers and sisters in the Lord, sons and daughters of God, and temples of the Spirit. The joy of the occasion is palpable, especially when the parents and godparents come up to the baptismal font and the water is poured over the head of the child by the celebrant. Each child is anointed before and after baptism with special oil, the oil of catechumens and the oil of chrism; the baptismal shawl is placed around the child and the baptismal candle is lit. The whole occasion is somehow uplifting in a way that is unique to that sacrament.
The vast majority of our baptisms are of children. They are oblivious to all that is happening around them. A big decision is being made on their behalf without their knowing anything about it. Yet, just as parents make all kinds of other big decisions for their children without consulting them, so parents are happy to make this particular significant decision on their behalf. There is a story in the gospels of parents bringing little children to Jesus. When the disciples tried to stop parents doing this, Jesus rebuked his disciples and said to them, ‘let the children come to me and do not stop them, for to such as these the kingdom of God belongs.’ Parents continue to bring their children to Jesus today whenever they present them for baptism, because in baptism they are being baptized into the person of Christ; they become members of his body; Jesus begins to live within them through the Spirit. When parents bring their children for baptism they are making a decision for them that is very much in keeping with the Lord’s desire. ‘Let the children come to me and do not stop them.’
Today we celebrate the feast of the baptism of Jesus. It is a good day to reflect on our own baptism and its significance for us. The day of Jesus’ baptism was a watershed in his life; it was a day of new beginning. On that day he began his public ministry during which he gave himself fully in the service of God and all of God’s people. On that day Jesus launched forth as the one who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. As he set out on that momentous journey for all of us, he was assured of God his Father’s favour, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’, and he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, who descended upon him life a dove. Even though Jesus received the baptism of John as an adult and we received Christian baptism as children, our baptism was also a day of new beginning for us. On that day we were launched on the great adventure of becoming disciples of Jesus in our own time. On that day, we too, like Jesus, were given an assurance of God’s love and favour, and we too were empowered by the Holy Spirit for the journey that lay before us. On that day we were caught up into Jesus’ own very special relationship with God and we became a member of Jesus’ family of disciples, the church. It is a momentous occasion that has the potential to shape our lives in a very fundamental way, in a way that is in keeping with God’s purpose for our lives.
In a sense we spend the rest of our lives trying to catch up with that day of new beginning. We are baptized as children but it is as adults that we confirm our baptism for ourselves. It is as adults that we say our own adult ‘yes’ to the Lord who said ‘yes’ to us as young children on the day of our baptism. It may be in our late twenties or our thirties or forties or even later that we come to say that ‘yes’ with all our heart and soul and mind. It is often in those mature years that we can hear the call of Isaiah in today’s first reading, ‘O come to the water all you who are thirsty, Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.’ The Lord keeps calling out to us from the moment of our baptism, and as the Lord declares in that first reading, ‘the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.’ Our response to the Lord’s call, the Lord’s word, can be slow in coming, but his call, his word, remains powerfully creative and will in some way or other make of us what God wants for us.

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    When our Lord Jesus needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit, how much more will we need?

    In today’s Gospel reading we read that God anointed our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit and power. The Holy Spirit gives the power required for us to do our tasks. The more anointing of the Holy Spirit, the more we can work for our God. If our Lord Jesus Christ needed the mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit then we will also require Him.
    When our Lord Jesus Christ sojourned on this earth, power went out from Him even without His knowledge. Power was just emanating out from Him all the time. It pierced through and went out from His robe. And it made everyone happy!! It cured all those whom He touched. He gave sight to the blind, speech to the mute, hearing to the deaf, food for the congregation, fishes for the fisherman and did mighty miracles wherever miracles were required. 
    The Spirit of God gave our Lord Jesus the power to do all the mighty accomplishments!! He will help us to do the same.

    When we read the Holy Bible, the Holy Spirit will be very happy to interpret it. So we need to ask the Holy Spirit to explain what God wants to explain to us from the Holy Scriptures. The disciples explicitly asked our loving Lord Jesus, “Teacher, explain to us what this parable means”. Then our Lord explained to them clearly. Likewise the Holy Spirit will also explain the scriptures in a way that we will know that God is directly talking to us.
    Some of us equate the Holy Spirit to “speaking in tongues” and totally shy away from the intent of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus Christ never spoke in tongues, even though He was filled with the power and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So let us not feel that the Holy Spirit is a far off God. He is too near to us. He is our friend. He resides inside us.

    The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:16: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”. Desire of the flesh is doing something outside the will of God. We all have to deal with it every day in our lives. It is not the narrow way. 
    An interesting testimony – “My husband is a movie buff. He watches a movie every day. He does not feel satisfied if he does not watch a movie a day. He would call me to watch the movie with him. This would be a real test for me whenever I have free time. When I have work, I do not have the time to watch, so there is no struggle in my mind. But in my free time, there was a lot of struggle within me either to pray and listen to Christian messages or to watch the movie with my husband. When I choose to walk by the Spirit, by listening to Christian messages and praying, I would have complete satisfaction and peace. I would also have time to submit all the petitions in my heart to our dear Jesus. When I choose to walk by the desire of my flesh, by watching the unnecessary movies, I would start regretting watching the movie and wasting my time.”

    As we saw in the above testimony, the Holy Spirit will help us in our daily simple activities of our life.  

    The Holy Spirit is a person of the Holy Trinity. God has sent the Holy Spirit to us because we are not smart enough to live the life which our God has planned for us on our own. Only with the Holy Spirit can we walk the life which our God has planned for us. He understands God’s thoughts and will and guides us accordingly. He has the mind of God. He loves us and takes care of us. He is also a person with feelings and can understand our feelings. He is the person who we desperately need.  

    There is no other person apart from the Holy Spirit who can take care of us. Testimony of a family who were doing amazing things both in their secular and spiritual life. The reason the mother quoted is – “It is only because God has anointed me with His Holy Spirit. He guides me all day long. I know that I am in desperate need of Him. I am working in IT, even while I am writing mailers I check with Him how to formulate the mailer. I ask Him, “Is the mailer complete? Can I click on the Send button?”. We pray for our child to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We take the lunchbox before the altar and ask Him to bless the food in there. The world thinks that we plan a lot for our success. But the reality is we do not think of big futuristic plans for us. We know that God our Father has already prepared a beautiful plan. We should just hold His hand and walk behind Him”.

    Life is never beautiful without God. We should make God the centre of our life and work out our priorities according to Him. The person who spends an hour daily at the feet of our Lord knows how to lead his life. It is then we can be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Only by spending time with God, can we get anointed with God’s presence. Only in God’s presence can we be anointed with God’s Holy Spirit. Let us be particular in praying and let us ask and receive the Holy Spirit.

    Our Lord Jesus said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Let us ask for more and more anointing of the Holy Spirit. It will be thrilling to live with Almighty God with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can do great accomplishments for our God.

    Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your mind so that you can think only good thoughts. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that He has the mind of Christ. So we can think like how our Lord Jesus thinks!!

    We need the Holy Spirit to achieve the purpose of our life as determined by God. By our nature, we think small. God thinks big and plans a big future for us. What we determine as the purpose of our lives will be smaller than God’s purpose for our lives. So we need the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the purpose of our lives.

    Alexander the Great, who conquered a major portion of the world when he was just 32 years, said just before his death: 1) “My physicians alone must carry my coffin.” 2) “I desire that when my coffin is transported to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard shall display the wealth I collected.” 3) “My third and last wish is that both my hands hang out of my coffin.” 
    Because he wanted to tell the world that although he achieved whatever he could desire, he was leaving with nothing. He was leaving the world only with regrets. 
    On the contrary, all the saints were happy at their time of death. They knew where they were going. They knew who they were going to meet. All the treasures they earned on earth are carried by the Angels to Heaven. 
    If Alexander’s mind was filled with the Spirit of God, he would not have left the world with empty hands. He would have seen his treasures carried by the angels. 
    The Spirit of God takes us through the pathway of Heaven while walking in the desires of the flesh makes us go to the pit. 
    We have little time to choose now. Let us choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit and fulfil the purpose of our life!!

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