Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection January 08, 2024


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R/. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

V/. Alleluia R/. Alleluia

V/. John saw Jesus coming towards him, and said: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

R/. Alleluia

At that time: John preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Baptism of the Lord outlines four aspects:

  • Indicates the radical mission of Jesus
  • Such a mission is rooted in his communion with the Father
  • Initiates his mission
  • Reminds our own baptismal consecration and mission

1.      The event of the baptism of Jesus indicates his “radical mission”, which is a mission of salvation or redemption. Originally, in the Biblical context, saviour or redeemer connotes the idea of one who acts on behalf of or in favour of someone in slavery or in debt, or who is a victim of injustice.

2.      Accordingly, a redeemer renders justice by winning over the opponent or relieving or liberating, with a ransom. In fact, the English term “redeem” evidently means to “make one deemed again”, or to restore the lost dignity. Thus, Jesus undertakes this mission of salvation or redemption from a situation of misery and bondage.

3.      So, Jesus’ mission implies an unending story of God’s mercy and compassion toward humanity, which is a victim and slave of sin. It implies his condescending forgiveness of their sins. Further, it also indicates their liberation. This is done through his identification with them, his solidarity with them, and his expiation for them by self-immolation.

4.      Now, how this mission is denoted by his baptism? Baptism was needed for those who are beset by sin, who need conversion, forgiveness, and purification. But, Jesus, the Son of God, did not need to be baptised, because he is sinless.

5.      But still, he allows himself to be baptised because he keeps himself in our place, he carries our burden of sin, he shares our human weakness, and he gets into solidarity with us in our human situation of fragility.

6.      His baptism confirms his communion with the Father, in which his mission is rooted. The obvious signs and testimonies of this communion are: the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the attestation of the Father from heaven, “You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased”.

7.      Jesus’ baptism initiates his “concrete mission”, which manifests itself in preaching and healing. This is a holistic mission, viz. of heart, word, and deed, namely, conversion of heart, announcing the good news in word, and healing in deed. His baptism marks the beginning of his ministry. So, on receiving baptism, Jesus immediately plunges into his relentless Kingdom-mission.

8.      Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our own baptism and challenges us to renew and live our baptismal consecration. Our baptism is not merely a ritual or a tradition. It is an insertion into the very life of Jesus.

9.      It is incorporation into the mystical body of Christ, the community of the Church. It is an imitation and resemblance of Christ. It is consecration to God. This can imply four aspects: We belong to God; we are totally owned/possessed by God; we remain loyal to God and His kingdom; we bear witness to Jesus and his values, through sharing in his own mission.

10.  What does the baptism of Jesus mean for us today? Is it only a commemoration of a past event in the life of Jesus or the history of the church? Is it only an instance that marks the start of Jesus’ mission? How does this feast summon us to “be daily baptised”, i.e. be charged and animated by the Holy Spirit and fire?

11.  How do we constantly strive to grow into the person and life of our Master? How do we grow into spiritual and fraternal communion with the community of the Church? How are we loyal and committed partakers and perpetuators of the same mission of Jesus, which is liberation and integration?

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