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The Baptism of the Lord 2023

Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
January 6, 2023

While most of our secular culture packed away Christmas decorations on December 26th, our Catholic church continues the celebration until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.   We usually celebrate this feast on the Sunday after Epiphany.  However, because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, we will celebrate the Baptism of the Lord on Monday January 9th.   I encourage everyone to prayerfully read the scriptures for the day: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29, 1-2, 3-4, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3: 13-17.

Our secular celebration of a new year moves us to resolutions of living with renewed purpose.   As Christians the purpose for our lives was defined for us at our baptisms; and so, on the feast of the baptism of Jesus, we reflect upon the significance of our own baptism.   The baptismal experience of Jesus revealed his identity as God’s beloved son; flowing from this identity was Jesus’ mission of bringing the good news of God’s love and care for the world.  In baptism our identity as God’s child was revealed, and our mission set before us.

In our baptism we were anointed as priests, prophets, and royalty to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.   As a priestly people we are called to holiness and called to be channels of God’s grace to others.  Each of us is called to exercise our priestly role by virtue of our baptism.  Even though ordained priests are the ministers of the sacraments, there are many ways of being a priest that everyone is called to do.   The traditional role of a priest for the Jewish people included acting as a leader of prayer and offering God’s blessings on the people.  The priest was also an instrument of reconciliation between God and God’s people.  In various ways we too are called to be a people of prayer, to offer blessings and to be an instrument of reconciliation.

Every time someone leads a prayer or prays on behalf of others they are acting in the priestly role.  When this role is fully realized, opportunities begin to present themselves for us to bless: food, things, occasions and people.  There are books of household blessings for families that contain numerous blessings for all occasions.

In baptism we are also anointed as prophets.  As prophets we are called to speak out against injustice and to work for peace.  Prophets share God’s word with others by being themselves the living word of God.  As we share our faith with others, we live out our prophetic call of Baptism.

In baptism we also are anointed as royalty.  As royalty we are called to exercise leadership on behalf of others and to be just stewards of the earth.  Whenever we act justly toward others and promote justice in the world, we live out our royal call of baptism.

In baptism each of us is called to live as a child of the light, to listen to God’s word and to proclaim our faith with words and deeds to the glory of God the Father.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God has called each of us for the victory of Justice.  God has grasped us by the hand and formed us and given us the power to be a transforming light to the world.

Our ability to live out our baptismal calling is closely connected with being aware that we are indeed beloved sons and daughters of God.   The image of being tenderly loved and cared for by God is also brought out in the reading from the prophet Isaiah.   Isaiah tells us that a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not quench.   In the times that we think we are emotionally or spiritually bruised, beyond repair, or we believe our flame of faith has gone out, we are called to remember that the Lord of light and life is able to rekindle new life into a smoldering wick.   When we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit to renew us, we can continue to be that burning light of Christ that God has called us to in baptism.

Prayer is our connection to the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer can bring the light of Christ’s presence to the darkest parts of our lives.  This is perhaps why lighted candles have been closely associated with prayer throughout the ages.  A lit candle is part of our baptismal ceremony as well as part of our Eucharistic prayer.

Our ability to live our baptismal commitments is sustained and nourished in our Eucharistic celebrations.  During our celebrations we gather as a community to pray for one another and the world; we hear the voice of God not from the heavens, but in the scripture proclaimed; and, we are strengthened in our commitment to follow Jesus through receiving Jesus himself in our Eucharistic bread and wine.

The transforming power of our Eucharistic celebrations enables us to truly live our baptismal identity as beloved sons and daughters of God.