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The Washing of the Water


“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” ~ Sylvia Earle

”Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.“ In these words, taken from today’s first reading (Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7), the Old Testament prophet foreshadows Jesus, mirroring the same words God uses in the closing stanza of today’s Gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22). As Isaiah would go on to proclaim, rhetoric and military might would take a backseat to mercy, peace, forgiveness and justice. Simply by virtue of the fact that Jesus would be referred to by God as a servant marked the dawning of a new day, a new order if you will, one in which docility, forgiveness, compassion, and unconditional love would rule the day.

At Jesus’ baptism, Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit descended upon him (3:22). On this day, in this very moment, Jesus received the spirit in a new way, a gift from God that would empower him and set him on the path of ministry, service, and ultimately death and resurrection. Our baptism ignites our mission as followers of Christ too

Baptism is amongst the greatest of heavenly gifts, or at least it has the potential to be. The Light of Christ we receive at baptism must burn brightly, fed with the oxygen of the Sacraments, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the virtues of charity, compassion and forgiveness. Without proper nourishment, our baptism is reduced to a soggy ritual, a wasted gift, a squandered opportunity. Our lives an abject failure. Adolph Hitler was baptized.

Tomorrow brings with it a return to Ordinary Time Our Gospel (Mark 1:14-20) will feature Jesus as he begins his ministry, preaching in the town of Galilee. The first words out of his mouth serve as a summary statement of his life and work:

"This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

In Jesus, something that human beings have been longing for has now appeared, and the time is now for a decision. His first words serve as a wake-up call. This is not the time to be asleep, not the time for delaying tactics, procrastinating, and second-guessing. The initial words of Jesus’ first sermon are an invitation to psychological and spiritual awareness: There is something to be seen here. Something profound. Something life saving.

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Using words and imagery similar to the quote that kicked off today’s reflection, Saint John Chrysostom explained that Jesus allowed himself to be baptized so that “He might pass on the sanctified waters to those who were to be baptized afterwards. He did not get baptized because he needed it, but so that he could sanctify the waters for all of those faithful to come – because the world needed it.”

Now more than ever, the world needs to hear from those who were baptized in the sanctified waters of Christ. For the one who is mightier then John the Baptist wants his world back. He will soon return to claim it. The question that Jesus asks in the closing words of the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) looms large however: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on the Earth?”

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