The Baptism of Jesus, Artist Unknown.
On coming up out of the water [Jesus] saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11.
Words and phrases highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
Note where the quotation above is taken from – the very beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark. After a few words about John the Baptist, we go straight into the scene in the River Jordan, with John the Baptist fulfilling his destiny to recognize and proclaim the arrival, at long last, of the promised Messiah. Then the focus switches to Jesus, who experiences two life changing moments. The first, God’s Spirit, as of a dove, descended upon him. That constitutes an anointing by God, hence Jesus became the Anointed of God, in Hebrew the Messiah of God, in Greek, the Christ of God. Then a voice from heaven, therefore that of God, proclaimed him Son of God. So in a few seconds the culmination of the entire Old Testament occurred, and the promise of centuries was fulfilled. The Messiah was no less than the Son of God Almighty come to earth to redeem us all, to invite us into God’s kingdom that we might dwell in eternal happiness. In other words, Jesus had now received his identity, as Son of God, and his vocation, to fulfill all the prophecies concerning the Messiah of God in holy Scripture. It was no wonder the poor man took off to the wilderness immediately to try and come to grips with those two revelations! It inaugurated his mission on earth, removing him from the carpenter’s bench to become God’s long-promised champion. Now you might well ask, what Scriptural passages are there concerning the Messiah? Today’s first reading from Isaiah begins to answer that: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting,…” and “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” Jesus now being God’s word made flesh. With the power of God he made the lame walk and the blind see. He fulfilled all that Scripture claimed for him. And he stayed true to that vocation even to death rather than deny his God-given identity or vocation. Even if that resulted in death, so be it. Jesus did not betray himself or his mission for anyone or anything.
Baptism is the cultic exercise whereby Christians become Christian. It is at that moment we, too, receive our identity as children of God and our vocation to be Christ to the world, using our God-given gifts or talents, as Jesus did. We emerge from the waters of baptism to become a daughter or son of God, a spiritual birth as it were. We are then anointed with oil, the outward sign of receiving the Holy Spirit, and are henceforward the Anointed of God, hence Christ to the world. Perhaps each time we are reminded of such treasures we too should take off for a short time to examine what we are doing with such an identity and vocation. Are we truly acting as a child of God? Are we truly using our talents as a child of God ought? Well it’s never too late to start:
Amy P. Photography, Cathedral of St. Paul, Birmingham, Alabama, USA.
God appreciates, loves and encourages even the smallest steps in the right direction!
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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