Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altar, The Baptism of Christ, German c.1485-1500, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, USA.

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John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him…. He is the Son of God’  John 1:32-34.

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The vast majority of Christians begin their Christian life by being baptized. Most of us do not remember the event as we were very young, perhaps only a few months old. Other Christian traditions, principally the Baptists, wait until adulthood. Some, especially the Quakers and the Salvation Army, who clearly label themselves Christian, do not baptize at all. But for most of us, child baptism is the norm. This varies from a small trickle of water on the forehead to total immersion. And this Sunday we remember Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by his cousin John. The event was critical for the Lord. It revealed his identity as Son of God, and it also revealed his vocation: he was the promised Messiah, come to fulfill the centuries of prophecies as written in Holy Scripture. John stated that Jesus was the Son of God as he must have heard the voice from heaven that he and the other evangelists speak of. Then the Spirit of God, “like a dove”, came upon him, thus anointing him: Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning Anointed; The Greek word is Christos, Christ, meaning the same thing, anointed. It was no wonder that he fled into the wilderness to try and make sense of that incredible event! 


Baptism of Christ, Albani c.1624, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, Italy.

But where do we take it from here? Yes, we accept Jesus as our Lord and God; yes we were baptized just as he was. Yes we too were anointed at our baptism, as well as had water run over us as an outward sign. What then? Take a look at today’s first reading. “The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory”. And today’s second reading: “…you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” Both those readings can be legitimately applied to each one of us. We were anointed, so we, each one of us, is Christ, Messiah, Anointed One to the world. And as we have been bathed, as it were, in holy water, we too are the (adopted) Children of God. So most of us start off in life as God’s child, and we are called to be Christ to the world! But we can’t work miracles, raise the dead to life, speak in words which will be echoed 2000 years from now you might say. Jesus was able to do those miraculous things as he was the Son of God, with powers beyond imagining, all of which he placed in service to us. But we do have certain divine powers too. We each of us have gifts from God with which we are born. Each one of us, without exception. Some others may have more than us, and we may have more than some others; that’s life. What is important to each of us are the powers that God has given us. It is with those powers that we will serve God in serving others, just as Jesus did. The goal of education is to identify those powers and develop them up as the means by which we will live our lives. The focus, though, must always and everywhere be, how do we serve others in using our powers?

Each year when I was still teaching, I would set the same exercise to my Juniors. They had to intervew their parents/guardians, and their parents’ friends and simply ask them if they were happy in their work. Given an answer, they were to ask why they were happy or not in the life they had chosen. Overwhelmingly the answer was they they were happy, and overwhelmingly the reason was that they helped others in some way or another. That is what gave them the greatest satisfaction in life. And that is precisely what the Lord calls us to do. Heaven can be tasted here and now because of that: happiness is to be found in the ways we help each other. It was Jesus’ command to us remember: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). And more: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). One student’s response remains with me to this day. She interviewed her uncle, the richest man in her family. He answered that he hated getting up on Monday mornings to go to his Wall Street job. He had been pressured into it by family and friends when the offer came, he took it and ended up regretting it for the rest of his life. I had told my students that if they ever did come across such a response, they had to be really careful, because the person in front of them was suffering and in pain. Ask as gently as possible why that was. In her case, he said all his life he wanted to be a chef. He could not change now as a chef’s income would be nothing like his present salary, which supported his family in a style which was grand. She concluded by remembering at every family cookout he would be there, wearing his chef’s hat, cooking for everyone, a radiant smile on his face. The point of the whole exercise was to indicate to them that money should not be the primary motivation in deciding what to do with your life. The Lord’s command should be the starting point. For Jesus his life was to be dominated by his mission to ensure that others were being served, they were to be taught to help others, and to stick to that focus no matter what. In that way he obeyed God’s will for him, and used his gifts to do his best in achieving it. So it must be for each of us.

Asian Mother with daughter of mixed Chinese and African American ethnicity at home indoors posing playfully for portraits smiling and being silly

8 Ways to Get Healthier, Volunteer Match.

Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.





  1. Hi Father Callan, We just want to say hello and wish you a Happy New Year!

    We miss your presence at St. Thomas the Apostle

    Leo and Irene Hill


    1. Thank you, and I wish you two the very same best wishes for the new year. You belong to a lovely parish, also blessed with a goodly number of priests! But I miss St. Thomas also.


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