Baptism Of The Lord, Year A
Theme of the week: Let us live our baptismal call, be proclaimers of truth and love.
We live in a world where individualism and relativism reign supreme. In a world, there is no absolute moral truths, each individual can decide what he or she want to believe and that becomes the truth for that person. All moral values are negotiable and relative. What is our Christian response to that?
There are typically two types of responses you see from Christians:
- The majority will lie low, keep quite and take no action, perhaps other than wring their hands and exclaim, “What is the world coming to?”
- A small minority will put forth the viewpoint of Christian morality boldly, and sometimes loudly.
By our baptism, we are all called to proclaim the truth. Hence, the first response is not consistent with our baptismal calling. As for the second response, if you prepare your facts well, you can win a few arguments, perhaps even silent a few individualists and relativists. But while you may win the intellectual argument, you will seldom win the opponent’s hearts. The latter is the more important mission – to win their souls for Christ. To do that, we need to recognise that our work is not about us versus them or about proving we are right and they are wrong. Our work, at its heart, is about love. For that, we need a third response.
The First Reading provides us a formula to win the argument but not lose the soul.
- First, I need to recognise that I am not doing this for myself. It is the Lord who has put His Spirit upon me, to “bring forth justice to the nations” (verse 1,3).
- That I exercise the quality of humility and meekness. There is no need to “cry or lift up [my] voice, or make it heard in the street” (verse 2).
- With the Spirit of God in me, I must draw courage from Him. I must not “grow faint or be crushed”, in spite of the difficulties I face (verse 4).
- It is only then that, for those who could not see the truth, I may open their eyes; for prisoners who “sit in darkness”, I may free them (verse 7).
These are qualities that Jesus demonstrated during his earthly life. For his meekness and calling back of sinners, others grew jealous of Jesus and crushed him. Though he was sinless, Jesus suffered the price of sins. This, in essence, is that meaning of Jesus’ baptism. The Gospel tells the story of the Baptism of Jesus. If we examine the purposes of baptism, it would seem that our Lord Jesus need not be baptised. The first purpose of Baptism is the acceptance of the baptised into God’s family – Jesus did not need that as he is God. The other purpose of Baptism is to be cleansed of sins – Jesus did not need that either as he is sinless. However, “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (1 Cor 5:21) Jesus’ main mission is not to prove his distractors wrong. His main mission is love. To show us God’s love, He willingly took on the punishment reserved for a sinner. Like a sinner, he presents Himself to be baptised. Like a sinner, he presents Himself to be crucified. It is such sacrificial love that wins the hearts of our opponents!
The Second Reading is a speech by Peter on the occasion of the baptism of Cornelius and his household. Peter emphasised our baptismal call when he said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Reflect upon this for a moment. By my baptism, I too have been anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, so that I too may do good and heal all who are oppressed by the devil. Remember, the individualists and relativists are not our real enemies, for they too are sons and daughters of God. The real enemy is the devil, the master of all deceptions.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt 28:19-20