The Baptism of the Lord (Cycle C) – January 13, 2019

Christmas Time

The Liturgical Season of Christmas Time begins with the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day – The Nativity of the Lord, followed by Sunday Masses for: The Feast of the Holy Family, The Epiphany of the Lord, and concludes with The Baptism of the Lord. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Him…including the fact that He was born to die for us. The Liturgical Color is white – a festive, joyful color. And, we can say “Merry Christmas” to our friends throughout this entire Christmas Season!

This Sunday’s Theme: The Baptism of the Lord.

The word baptize comes from the Greek word baptizein meaning to dip, immerse or wash (usually in water).  Jesus’ baptism initiated the beginning of His public ministry and of a special anointing on Him by God’s Holy Spirit. Our baptism initiates us into: the Christian community (our entry into and belonging in Church membership), forgiveness of past sins, and committing to a life founded on gospel thoughtfulness.

The baptism of Jesus is considered a manifestation of God in Jesus, another “epiphany.” On this, the last day of the Christmas season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ relation to God – He is God’s own Son. In Luke’s Gospel, all three members of the Trinity are manifested here: God the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus the Son.

This Sunday brings us to the end of the liturgical Christmas Time. It is a bridge between Christmas Time and the beginning of Ordinary Time – this Sunday is another Epiphany story — manifesting Jesus as the Servant of God who will save His people from the slavery of sin.

Reading 1 Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11      Isaiah tells the exiled people to prepare a way for the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 104:1b-4,24-25,27-30      A prayer praising God’s greatness.

Reading 2 – Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7      Jesus Christ saved us and renewed us with His Holy Spirit.

Gospel Luke 3:15-16,21-22     Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist.

This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal,,, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

 NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11                   (Promise of Salvation)         

Context – The keynote of the Book of Isaiah is salvation (Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah saves”). He was the prophet of the southern kingdom, Judah, and lived at the time (ie. 742 – 687 BC) when the northern kingdom, Israel, whose capital was Jerusalem, was destroyed. At this time all that was left of the old kingdom of David was Judah, which included the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites. He prophesized for 64 years. He prophesized doom for a sinful Judah and Israel and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. Then, he prophesized God’s restoration of the nation of Israel, including Judah, and this is interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Christ. After the Psalms, Isaiah is the Old Testament book most quoted in the New Testament.

Todays’ Reading – In verses 1-5, are words of comfort and tenderness for a people who spent 70 years in exile from their homeland.  The exiles are directed to act out their deliverance even before they see evidence of it. They are to image a great highway on which they will travel home and to remove any obstacles that might block God’s coming. Also, a prophecy about John the Baptist is made in verse 3.

 In verses 9-11, a second directive is given to the people living in Jerusalem.  Their city is broken and depleted, and they are told to announce to the other vanquished cities of Judah that a new time is coming when God, like a good shepherd, is going to show a new concern for His flock.

Comfort, give comfort [i] to My people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service (exile) is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: [ii] In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! [iii] Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by a strong arm; here is His reward with Him [iv], His recompense before Him. Like a Shepherd He feeds His flock; in His arms He gathers the lambs, carrying them in His bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

 Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 104:1b-4,24-25,27-30                     (Creator and Redeemer)

This psalm is a hymn of praise to God the Creator whose power and wisdom are manifested in the visible universe. His creation and sustenance of the world are the theme of this Psalm.

R. –  O bless the Lord, my soul.
O LORD, my God, You are great indeed! You are clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak. You have spread out the heavens like a tent-cloth;
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
You have constructed Your palace upon the waters. You make the clouds Your chariot; You travel on the wings of the wind. You make the winds Your messengers, and flaming fire Your ministers.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
How manifold are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You have wrought them all– the earth is full of Your creatures; the sea also, great and wide, in which are schools without number of living things both small and great.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
They look to You to give them food in due time. When You give it to them, they gather it;
when You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.
If You take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.
R. – O bless the Lord, my soul.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Reading 2     Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7                 (Christ Saves Us Through Baptism by the Holy Spirit) 

Context – Titus a Gentile, at times accompanied Paul and Barnabas. Paul’s letter to Titus has three main topics: Special training for bishops and elders; Setting forth a common approach to all the members of the church regardless of age, sex, free or slave; and Behaviors expected of new believers as a result of receiving God’s grace.   

Today’s Reading – In verses 2:11-14, Paul speaks about the grace of God that has come to us through the coming of Christ, a grace that enables us to reject pagan or ungodly ways and the grace to follow the ways of Jesus. In verses 3:4-7, Paul reminds Titus and all Christians that their current status as a new people is totally the result of God’s mercy and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people as His own, eager to do what is good.

When the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of His mercy, He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          The above closing verses describe the change wrought by Christ. The “bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” is a reference to the sacrament of baptism and the effect of receiving that sacrament – we are “born again of water and Spirit” (John 3:3, 5) as a new creation, regenerated without sin, adopted members of God’s household (Romans 8:15-17).
“Strange, isn’t it, how we were so drowned in wickedness that we could not be purified? We needed a new birth! For this is implied by ‘regeneration.’ For as when a house is in a ruinous state no one places props under it nor makes any addition to the old building, but pulls it down to its foundations and rebuilds it anew. So, in our case, God has not repaired us but made us anew.” (Saint John Chrysostom)

Gospel     Luke 3:15-16, 21-22                      (Jesus is baptized by John)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. He was probably the only Gentile writer in the Bible and his theme was that Christ came into the world as Savior for both Jews and Gentiles. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – Luke places Jesus’ baptism before the start of His public ministry to identify Jesus as the chosen Servant foretold by Isaiah (Reading 1). Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism highlights the prayer of Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the heavenly voice proclaiming Jesus as God’s beloved Son.

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John the Baptist might be the Christ. [vi] John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but One mightier than I is coming [vii]. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” [viii]

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.”

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Why did the Holy Spirit appear as a Dove? – Since the Holy Spirit is totally of one divine nature (Jesus had both a divine and human nature), He cannot be seen by us humans so He must appear in some form. In this case of Jesus’ Baptism, He chose the Dove since Holy Scripture considers a Dove as simple and innocent (see Matt. 10:16). At our baptism we are cleansed from Original Sin and thus made “innocent”. So, a Dove was chosen to signify the peace, ie. innocence, which is bestowed by baptism. This also relates to the Old Testament story of the olive branch which the Dove carried back to the ark. All the effects of the flood canceled out human evilness and the world was once again made innocent.  

Catechism 536 – The baptism of Jesus is on His part the acceptance and inauguration of His mission as God’s suffering Servant. He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners; He is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.  Already He is anticipating the “baptism” of His bloody death. Already He is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”, that is, He is submitting Himself entirely to His Father’s will: out of love He consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming His entire delight in His Son. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from His conception comes to “rest on Him”. Jesus will be the source of the Holy Spirit for all mankind. At His baptism “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.

[i]  Reading 1 Footnotes:
“Comfort, give comfort” = The double imperative “Comfort” suggests emotional intensity in that the Exile of 70 years is nearly over!
[ii]  “A voice cries out: In the desert” = This is a prophecy of John the Baptist (see Gospel).
[iii]  “prepare the way of the Lord” = Every Israeli is asked to repent from their sins that caused the Exile in the first place, do not be angry at God for His past chastisement, and commit to living in obedience to God.
[iv]  “here is His Reward with Him” = “His Reward” is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus.
[v]   Reading 2 Footnote:
“our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people as His own, eager to do what is good” = This is a direct reference to Jesus’ sacrifice on the altar of the cross; the sacrifice which instituted the New Covenant in which we are made children of God with a heavenly inheritance!
[vi]  Gospel Footnotes:
The people were asking “whether John the Baptist might be the Christ” = Many reasons might have caused the people to think that John the Baptist was the Christ (the prophesized Messiah, the Appointed One by God): 1. The wonders that took place at his birth (his father muteness) and conception (his mother being very old and barren – without any prospect of offspring); 2. The excellence of his preaching, his monastic life in the desert, and the originality of his type of baptisms; and 3. The report which then generally prevailed among the Jews, that the Messiah was already come – on account of the actuality of the following: coming of the Magi, and the murder of the infants by Herod, plus Jesus submitted to John to baptize Him. (A Messiah would have no need to be baptized since he would be sinless. However, Jesus chose to do so out of the obligation of doing first ourselves what we wish others to do.)
[vii]   “I am baptizing you with water, but One mightier than I is coming” = And therefore there was one baptism of repentance (John the Baptist), another of grace (Jesus). The latter was by both water and the Holy Spirit, the former by water only. The work of man is to bring forth repentance for his sin and then turn from sin to virtues, however it is the gift of God to also pour in the grace of His divine mystery including the forgiveness of sins. Also – The expected Messiah is the great liberator in the war against Satan. The word “mighty” used here by John, is often used in Scripture for the leader of the final struggle with evil
[viii]  “fire” = This is a metaphor, to signify the Holy Spirit and His gifts, particularly the fire of divine love for the expiation of sins, and is very common in Scripture. According to the Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, the fire of Purgatory is God’s Love purifying our soul in preparation for the final beatific vision – the heavenly union with God.