BAPTISM OF THE LORD B
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord challenges us to think about what it means to say I am baptized…what it means to believe…what it means to be marked with the cross of Christ forever.
Sadly, I fear that we’ve lost an appreciation for Baptism. For many, baptism is neither powerful nor significant. Instead, it has become a ritual custom we hold on to because our families have been doing it for generations. This may be a sign of a larger disengagement from religious identity that is overtaking, not just the Catholic Church, but other Christian denominations as well.
And, it’s not just about recent parents of newborns. Even many adults who attend church every Sunday have difficulty putting into words what our own baptisms mean, aside from a free ticket into heaven when we die.
But Jesus considered baptism so important that he came to John the Baptist to be baptized. The very early Church considered the Baptism of the Lord to be more important than Christmas! And just as Jesus’ baptism initiated his public ministry, so we should understand our own baptisms as an initiation to our own ministry as faithful disciples.
Hear is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I am pleased…He will make justice shine on the nations…He will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick.
These words from Isaiah provide comfort for those who await the day of the Lord. But those words also challenge us, because Isaiah is also talking about the behavior that’s appropriate for all those who love and serve the Lord. In other words, he’s talking about us becoming servants of God through our baptism!
And as servants of God, we will not break a bruised reed. There are many people in the world who suffer through no fault of their own; victims of accidents, victims of domestic violence, victims of economic upheaval, victims of war. These are all the bruised reeds of the world we live in.
And, as baptized Christians, we have duty to care for them and to work so that their suffering may be alleviated. Never is the Church more clearly fulfilling its destiny than when we stand up for those who need a champion.
As servants of God, we will not snuff out the smoldering wick. The smoldering wicks of our world are those people who are casualties of their own inner failures. Their store of hope and their own inner light has run down and their own foolish choices are catching up with them.
Many have invested their lives in things that rust, rather than in the things that endure. They have wasted their time, their health, and their opportunities. Many have sacrificed everything for success, including their families, their friends, their values – and their faith.
The good news that we proclaim is that God cares about these bruised reeds. God cares about these smoldering wicks.
Today we challenged to remember that the cross of Jesus himself was marked on our foreheads at baptism and nothing can remove that cross. For this good news let us say from our hearts - Thanks be to God!