A reflection on the readings for Sunday, January 9, 2022 — The Baptism of the Lord
Each week, I pray with the Sunday Scriptures when I begin to prepare my homily. I’m always amazed when the Holy Spirit surprises me by showing me a small detail in the Scriptures that contains a powerful lesson. I love when this happens because—even though I’ve already read the Sunday Scriptures several times during the week—it’s a detail that I somehow overlooked until the Holy Spirit was ready to show me.
It happened to me the other day. Admittedly, I was getting a little impatient with the Lord. I’d been praying with the Scriptures for a few days, asking the Lord to speak to my heart a word that I’d be able to preach on this wonderful feast of Jesus’ baptism, but I kept coming up empty. I sat down at my desk to prayerfully read the Scriptures again and, exasperated, I said, “Okay, Lord. I really need you to tell me what to preach about this weekend.” And then I read the Gospel again and a detail jumped out at me. “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying…” “Wow,” I thought. “How was it that I was never drawn to that important detail?” Jesus was praying after he was baptized.
St. Luke includes this very important detail for a reason. Why this detail? And why is it important? What lesson does it teach us not only about Jesus’ baptism but also about our baptism and our lives as baptized Christians?
By telling us that Jesus was praying after he was baptized, St. Luke is pointing us to the importance of the intimate relationship that Jesus has with his Father. The fact that Jesus was praying after his baptism also points to the deeper significance of our own baptism: Baptism incorporates us into the life of the Blessed Trinity and the life of the Church; and the way that we grow in our relationship with the Trinity—the way that we participate in the life of the Church—is through a life of prayer. Jesus was praying after he was baptized so that we, too, would dedicate ourselves to prayer as a way to live our baptism every day.
Sadly, many Catholics don’t understand the deeper significance of their baptism. Many Catholics see baptism simply as a ritual that their parents put them through so that they could be cleansed of Original Sin and then eventually be able to receive the other sacraments. And while that’s true, there’s so much more to our baptism than that.
While our baptism took place at a moment in time, we are called to live our baptism each and every day of our lives. And it all begins with prayer. This is one of the reasons, I believe, the Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to tell us that Jesus was praying after he was baptized.
By the way, Jesus did not need to be cleansed of original sin through baptism since he is sinless. He was baptized, as St. Maximus the Confessor tells us, “not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy…” Through his baptism he revealed to us that it is the way that we are to share in his divine sonship; it is the way that we are incorporated into the life of the Holy Trinity.
In this Gospel, we are told that the Father’s voice came from heaven and said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” When we were baptized, even though no one heard the voice of the Father, he spoke those same words to each of us: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” We are beloved children of God. That is what our baptism has made us; it is our deepest identity. Baptism, then, is the beginning of what is supposed to be our intimate friendship with the Lord throughout our lives, an intimate friendship deepened daily through prayer.
So, here are some questions for you as we begin this new year:
- How is your life of prayer?
- Are you consciously drawing on the grace of your baptism each day, the grace that made us sharers in Christ’s own divine sonship, the grace that incorporated us into the life of the Blessed Trinity?
- Are you meditating on the life-changing truth that you are a beloved child of God?
- Are you growing in a deeper awareness of God’s love for you?
- And, importantly, are you living your baptism by sharing God’s love and truth with others through a life of charity?
On this feast of Christ’s Baptism we thank him for the gift of our baptism, and we thank him for the grace of prayer which enables us to deepen our friendship with the Holy Trinity.
Image: Adobe Stock. Vranov, Slovakia. 2019/8/22. Icon of the Baptism of Christ — Theophany, also called Epiphany. Chapel of the Convent of the Holy Trinity in Lomnica. By Adam Ján Figeľ.