Second Sunday in Ordinary Time




It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.


Because Saint John baptized “for the forgiveness of sins” the four evangelists dance around the issue of Jesus’ baptism. Saint Mark, the earliest gospel, simply declares that he “was baptized in the Jordan by John.” Saint Luke admits he was baptized but immediately draws our attention to what happened next:
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Saint Matthew deals more directly with the problem:
John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.
The Fourth Evangelist simply ignores the incident and the controversy; he focusses on what the others attested, the Appearance of the Holy Spirit. In his account the Baptist declares, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.” There were no reporters there to harass the prophet about a question he deemed unimportant.
The Four Evangelists appear to worry about why Jesus should be baptized when he was so clearly the sinless Lamb of God, pure and unstained, who would offer himself in sacrifice for sin.
 Saint Paul gives us the best explanation for Jesus’ baptism, by way of an exhortation:
We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Jesus was baptized like any sinner. He knew John's objection but he saw no reason not to be. 

We cannot forget Paul’s plea when we consider that Jesus has taken our sin, guilt and shame upon himself. If I will only consider the trial and trauma Jesus suffered, I will surely be reconciled to God and to those around me.
Nor will I dare to blow off Jesus’ sacrifice as if he only appeared to suffer, or he did it “because he had to,” or unwillingly. Was there any shade of reluctance in Jesus’ sacrifice? Did he allow himself a private reservation or skeptical distance from the cross?
The scriptures don’t allow such an interpretation nor would it make sense. Nothing less than his total immolation could satisfy the depths of our guilt. Anyone who has suffered an atrocity -- or perpetrated one -- can testify to this ultimate demand. We cannot be satisfied with half-measures, not even by God.
Clearly, Jesus began his ministry with a shocking act; he was baptized by John. Matthew says he insisted upon it although he was clearly without sin. He allowed no distance between himself and us. Are we happy? Then he is happy. Are we grieving? He grieves with us. Are we guilty of barbaric, senseless cruelty to one another? He stands with us before His Father, guilty like everyone else.
In the faceless mass of sinful humanity, covered in shame, only the Father could pick him out. But the Father accepts Jesus’ demand; he will not be set apart from us. The Father does so because that’s the very Spirit in which he sent him.
Because Jesus has paid such a price the words of our first reading from Isaiah are fulfilled in him:
It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.