Today we join the end of the Christmas season to the beginning of ordinary time with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Christmas season is completed. The crib is gone, the Jesse tree is dismantled. The decorations of the Christmas festivities are packed away. God with us is now symbolized by the Word, the Eucharist and the Living Community of Faith.
Each of the synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) witnesses to the baptism of the Lord. Today we listen to the Gospel of Mark. In a simple and straightforward way Mark tells us that Jesus comes to the Jordan and is baptized by John. His baptism marks something new. A voice – you are my Son, the beloved; my favour rests with you. John the Baptist had already predicted that he would baptise with the Holy Spirit. Later in the Gospel we are told again that this Jesus is the beloved Son and we should listen to him.
We are given the beloved on whom God’s favour rests. Ever since the gospel witness to this man, Jesus Christ has been the one to whom Christians have turned in order to understand and to know the Creator God ( the Father) who sent him into the world. The beloved, on whom God’s favour rests has been pointed to and become the reference point for Christians for centuries. The challenge is to rediscover who he is and what he stands for again and again.
For some he is the law giver and favour rests on him because he carries the laws, the rules and regulations by which Christians, at least, and in fact that whole human race should live by. Favour rests on his laws. Is he the one? Is this the Christ?
For others he is a good man, a man of authenticity and integrity. He is an example of how to do good and avoid evil. Favour rests on him because of his goodness. There are others like him too –Buddha, Muhamad, Gandhi, Mother Teresa. Is he the one? Is this the Christ?
For others he is the source of comfort and consolation, he is the one to whom we (should) turn when we are in need and the one we (should) praise when we are happy. Is he the one? Is this the Christ?
For others he is the person who invites us to dialogue with ourselves and with others. Favour rests on him and in turn his followers are incorporated into the body named after him and filled with the Spirit. His life, death and resurrection become the way in which his followers interpret life. We need to share our joys and sorrows with each other and discover him again. Is he the one? Is this the Christ?
In truth we must turn to the gospels again to discover who he is.
Jesus is the one who opened his heart and his arms to people whoever they were. There were no walls or boundaries around his compassion. He went from village to village to ensure that no sick person would allude him or no leper seek him in vain, no sinner be left without forgiveness. He entered into dialogue with unexpected dialogue partners and accepted invitations to dine with people of questionable character. He wasn’t particular or exclusive in his choice of friends, table companionship or indeed apostles. These are the tracks on which Jesus places the church. The church should exhibit the same openness and compassion as its founder. He tried to understand all. He was outspoken against hypocrisy and those who weighed heavy burdens on others shoulders but never tempted to revenge, violence or retribution.
This is the one on whom the favour of God rests.
Fr Brendan Reed