This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. We are not always aware that this feast is the culmination of the Christmas season. The Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of his public ministry, the time when Jesus, God-among-us, walks among suffering humanity, takes on the pain, sickness, and oppression all around him. The face of God is turned towards us with infinite compassion, forgiveness, and love. The Gospel narrative is the unfolding of that presence, God’s embrace of our wounded humanity, from the moment of his baptism through the passion. We take time through today’s liturgy to reflect on Jesus’ Baptism which inaugurates his public ministry; it takes us also to the special moment in our own lives of Baptism, the gift of the Spirit, and the call to discipleship.
In a time of immense fear from pandemics, division, war, and hatred, we remember in faith the presence of God who entered into our pain; we pray for healing and restoration of all creation. We pray together in community, as Church, as God’s holy people in need of divine mercy, so that we can discern the face of God in each other — most especially, those who are victims of sinful practices.
We need the encounter with this Jesus in all the sadness and difficulties we are facing. Pope Francis emphasizes that the Christian message is about a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable by entering into the pain of others; not to offer answers, but rather to just be a loving presence. At a baptism, what do we say? The godparents and faith community, whether it is the baptism of a child or an adult who is making a profession of faith, pledge to provide an environment of faith, hope, and love so that, along with the parents, this new Christian can grow and mature in the life of the Spirit. Really what we are saying is that we are all here for them to celebrate the joys and, also, to walk through the pain. I really appreciate the line from St Paul in First Corinthians 12 that when one part in the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with them, when one has joy we share the joy. The hope is that this makes the burden less and the joy more abundant. We then, after supporting each other as a family, roll up our sleeves and take up the joys and burdens of the human family which Jesus embodied. We do that by a life in the Spirit.
In this difficult time in human history, it is my hope and prayer that we all realize we have the family of St Agnes to fall back on, that we truly could be all in for each other. The world could then say, “see how these Christians love one another.” This is not a sentimental thing, but rather it is what the world needs us to embody and put into action.