My dear brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and also the First Sunday of ordinary time, year B. This Sunday is like a bridge, officially marking the end of Christmas season as well as the beginning of the ordinary time of the year.
In today’s first reading from Isaiah, God extends a universal invitation to all of us. It is a special invitation to come to Christ the living water. Christ is the living water in whose name we were baptized. Through his own baptism, He has sanctified our own water of baptism. Today’s invitation is special because it is open to all nations, especially to those who are truly thirsty and truly open to the salvation that God offers through his son Jesus Christ. Hence, it is a call to accept God’s offer of salvation by believing in Jesus Christ, the living water.
In our second reading, John calls our attention to the importance of believing in Jesus Christ. Most importantly, he highlighted three elements that bear witness to the Sonship of Christ: water, blood and spirit. Every day, we are tainted both inwardly and outwardly by sin. In light of this, the water of baptism which Christ brings continues to be efficacious in our lives. Christ continues to regenerate us through the water of baptism, through his precious blood and through the power of the Holy Spirit. This water and blood include all that is necessary for our salvation. Both, flows from Christ. Through His water, our souls are washed and purified for eternal life in heaven. Through His blood, we are justified, reconciled, and presented to God as righteous. Through His Spirit, we are made strong for the battle of life. Christ loved the church, and gave himself for us, that he might sanctify and cleanse us with the washing of water in baptism (Eph 5:25-27).
In today's Gospel, we hear John the Baptist contrast his baptism of repentance with the baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John the Baptist says that he has baptized with water, but that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit. John's baptism was not yet a Christian baptism; it was a preparation for the Christian Baptism we celebrate today, and through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received. In accepting John's baptism, Jesus, though sinless, united himself with all sinners. Christ had to be baptized in order to make a way for us, and in order to purify our water of baptism. This is because, as the first among his brothers (Rom 8, 29), he always takes the lead in order to show us the way. Hence, He came from heaven to earth to show and lead us through the way. The baptism of Christ, therefore, is the stepping stone for our own baptism. He healed the water. Thus, giving it the capacity to clean us from Original Sin. Therefore, today’s celebration reminds us of God’s saving help to us. It reminds us that what Adam and Eve destroyed through Original Sin, was restored by Christ through the water of baptism.
At Christ’s baptism, the Spirit of the Father bore witness that he is truly the son of the Father. This is equally what happens to us, not only at baptism, but daily. As we continue to walk with God by fulfilling our baptismal promises, the Holy Spirit, continues to testify: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” The baptism of Jesus is considered an important manifestation of God in the person of Jesus, another epiphany. Jesus' baptism inaugurates his mission. Mark's Gospel moves quickly from the report of Jesus' baptism to Jesus' temptations in the desert to his ministry in Galilee after John's arrest. The end of the ministry of John the Baptist is the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In an analogous way, our Baptism inaugurates our mission as Christians.
Finally, today’s celebration affords us the opportunity to reflect on our Baptism. So, let us renew those promises we made to God in the name of Jesus Christ. Today, let us recommit ourselves to Christ in whose name we were baptized. With joy let us draw living water from Christ, the well of salvation (Is 2, 3).
Happy New Year, stay safe, and God bless you,
Fr Sylvester Onyeachonam.