Baptism of the Lord
- Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7. In his first song of the Suffering Servant within the prophecy of Isaiah, God summons his chosen one to bring forth justice to the nations, quietly, considerately.
- Acts 10:34-38. To instruct one of the first gentile converts, Peter began with Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist when he was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power.
- Luke 3:15-16, 21-22. Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and confirmation by the Holy Spirit.
Thoughts for your Reflection: by John Gonzalez
The readings for today initiate the public ministry of Christ with the baptism by John the Baptist followed by the public confirmation of his union with God. The Gospel and second reading remind us of the historical beginning of Jesus’ public ministry while the first reading by the Prophet Isaiah functions as a “job description” for the Suffering Servant.
After having celebrated the Incarnation throughout the Advent and Christmas season we now take some time to contemplate what this mystery is about. Jesus’ ministry is the public example of what it means to live in God. By his teachings and example Jesus will consistently demonstrate what it truly means to be human. This will culminate with His Passion, Death and Resurrection. In our Christian theology, the ultimate expression of freedom for humanity occurs when it exists in the service of God and humanity. This week Isaiah provides a glance of what this expression looks like — which Jesus, who is the suffering servant, will exemplify, and which we are called to follow.
According to Isaiah the suffering servant’s mission is to: “bring forth justice to the nations.” He is expected both to teach and establish justice. Verse 2 and 3 explain his methodology. He will not be a soapbox preacher or a shouting protestor. Instead he will be pastoral in his approach, “A bruised reed he shall not break.” In the language of the Church, the servant will be both “Mater et Magistra” (Mother and Teacher) in that on the one hand the servant will teach God’s justice by word and example (Magistra) but the servants’ methodology will be pastoral (Mater), and build up, rather than divide, the human community to embrace God’s justice. As we consider the public ministry of Jesus let us consider how he is our consistent teacher of God’s justice while he employs a pastoral and compassionate methodology. This is the example which we are called to live out.
In verse 7 and 8 Isaiah will describe what God’s justice will look like: “To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” God’s justice is truth and hope. It is a truth and hope that will heal our broken humanity. It is a truth and hope that will physically liberate us from injustice and spiritually liberate us from an isolated and empty existence. Jesus, in his role as teacher, will expand on this later on in Luke’s gospel in his beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26) and in his discourse to the scholar of the law (Luke 10: 25-37) and the rich official (Luke 18: 18-23).
According to the prophesy of Isaiah and the life of Christ this interpretation of justice is at the heart of the Gospel. While the methodology of Jesus is compassionate and pastoral and our call to bring about God’s justice must also be compassionate we are not called to compromise the truth of God’s justice in any way. Any injustice that violates the integrity of human life and creation is an injustice that demands our gentle but firm reproach. Jesus was both pastoral and prophetic. A Christian is called to be both. To seek social justice is not an option for ministry. It is an essential element of our vocation and ministry. This was summed up very well in the 1971 Synod of Bishops when they declared that:
Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.