The Baptism of the Lord
January 10, 2021 Cycle B
Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

Today, we contemplate Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan, a mystery of light that illuminates our lives. As we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we each remember our own Baptism, the day when we were reborn of water and the Holy Spirit.

Through Baptism, we were chosen. Today’s first reading says: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased” (Is 42:1). On the day of our Baptism, the Father’s voice echoed in the secret of our hearts: “You are my beloved Son” (Mk 1:11). Indeed, we are beloved children of God. We belong to him.

Today’s Prayer after Communion says that in order to be children of God in name and truth, we need to listen to Jesus. It means that in order to experience the full effects of the Sacrament of Baptism, we need to appropriate the gift of the Spirit personally through faith, ongoing conversion and growth in the knowledge of God.

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1:8). The Holy Spirit gives us the grace of a life-changing encounter with Christ. The gift that we have received through Baptism comes alive through this personal encounter with Christ. When we discover, by the grace of God, that Jesus’ living presence is among us, our lives are transformed. We need to pray for the grace of this personal encounter with the Lord. Many Christians lead tepid lives because they have never experienced this encounter.

In Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, he wrote: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. […] I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’” (EG  3 and 7).

In our encounter with Christ, we experience that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. That God loves and knows us makes us pass from darkness to light. In our encounter with Jesus, we are transformed inwardly. He delivers us from the power of Satan. Today’s second reading says: “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). We no longer see others as our enemies, but instead embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Only the discovery that God is our Father allows us to conquer hatred and divisions.

As we each accept our identity as a beloved child of the Father, we can embark courageously on the mission to which God calls us. Today’s first reading says: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased […] he shall bring forth justice to the nations” (Is 42:1).

Jesus’ act of humility tore the heavens asunder. The whole cosmos was impacted by the revelation of the Son of God. In every moment of history, to be children of God in name and in truth is the greatest contribution for the common good. The conscientious sons and daughters of God are those of whom speaks the prophet Isaiah speaks: “They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up and restore the ruined cities” (Is 61:4).

May the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord fill our hearts with gratitude for the gift of Baptism. “You are my beloved Son.” May the voice of our loving Father be our consolation, our hope and our light guiding us toward the future. May the Holy Spirit renew our personal encounter with Christ. May our awareness of being children of God make us—as Saint John Paul II used to say—builders of a civilization of love, truth and peace.  Amen.