The Baptism of the Lord: Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29; Acts 10: 34-38; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

Traditionally we greet the New Year with a host of resolutions. Frequently they have evaporated within the week. The scriptures that we share for the Baptism of the Lord, precisely because they take us to the heart of what we become through our baptism into Christ, provide a more enriching basis for our New Year resolutions.

Throughout the Year of Faith we pray that we might grow in our relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was at the Baptism of the Lord that this relationship, at the heart of faith, began to be revealed.

In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah’s presentation of the Suffering Servant anticipated the Baptism of the Lord. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations.’”

Throughout his ministry Jesus closely identified himself with Isaiah’s Servant. The prophet did more than describe the ministry that the Servant would fulfil. More importantly, he described the relationship underlying that ministry. This ministry would flow from an unprecedented intimacy between the Servant and the God of Israel. The Servant would be upheld by the Lord, would be chosen for God’s delight and endowed with his Spirit.

Although any thoughts of what later generations would describe as the Trinity were beyond the consciousness of the prophet, his description of the servant anticipated what would be revealed in Jesus.

The Servant’s ministry was rooted in the heart of God. It was here that he had become the chosen object of God’s delight: here he had been endowed with God’s own Spirit, a Spirit that would enable his ministry.

For this reason everything that followed in the ministry of the Servant became an expression of the God who had loved and chosen him. His compassion for the crushed reed and the wavering flame was, at one and the same time, God’s compassion for his people. His fidelity in bringing justice to the nations, refusing either to waver or be crushed, expressed God’s patient and loving kindness towards a wayward people. The Servant who would open the eyes of the blind, free captives from prison and bring light to their dungeon of suffering, would do so only from the light and freedom that was his as the one who had been chosen and loved by the God of Israel. Such thoughts must surely colour the resolutions that we might be making for the Year of Faith.

It is only when we begin to live in the love of the Father, entrusted to us at our baptism, that we can witness to such love. Any resolutions that we might make will come to nothing, unless, with the Servant, we surrender the frailty of our wills to the anointing of God’s Spirit.

St Luke’s account of the Baptism of the Lord brings these various elements into sharp focus. The baptism that John the Baptist could not confer, a baptism in the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love, was revealed at the baptism of Jesus. As Jesus came forth from the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. The voice of the Father was heard to claim him as his beloved Son, the one endowed with his favour.

During this year of faith may we enter into the grace of our baptism, knowing that in Christ we are loved by Father and anointed by his Spirit. This was the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and is the only sure foundation for all that we might do or say in the year ahead.