The Baptism of the Lord (A), January 12, 2014 – Is 42, 1-4. 6-7; Acts 10, 34-38; Mt 3, 13-17
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3, 27)
Jesus is the son and servant of the Lord. He gets branded, so to speak, as he is baptized. His mark reveals to the people his condition as son and servant, as lamb at its owner’s full disposition. His ministry will later confirm his identity, which indicates that we who bear the indelible Christian baptismal character will be proven genuine through our service.
Being son does not mean everything will be easy. The account of his baptism already hints at a certain disagreement, which will come to a head: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” The explanation to those who see Jesus’ submission to baptism as proof of the Baptist’s superiority is simply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
But the disagreement among kindred spirits is nothing, when compared to the opposition to come due to Jesus’ constant carrying out of God’s will. Son though he was, he learns, through suffering, to be true to his character as obedient servant.
Yes, people are amazed and give glory to God as Jesus goes about doing good—not altogether unlike calling someone a saint for feeding the poor. But just as “saint” becomes “communist,” so also approval and admiration turn into fury when the proclamation of the Gospel to the poor addresses ethnocentric or exclusivist arrogance. And things get worse as Jesus zeroes in on the causes of the evils to root out.
He unmasks the hypocrisy of the self-righteous and opposes those who put their traditions ahead of the salvation of souls. He denounces those who prescribe their rituals to keep their hold on others or to exploit helpless widows and orphans.
He challenges the established order: blessed are the poor, woe to the rich; leadership is service, not a permit to extort, abuse, peddle influence or receive bribes. He is harsh with those who have turned the house of prayer into a consumerist center.
He condemns greed, calling imbeciles those who think there is sure salvation in amassed wealth. He warns the heartless of the torment in the hereafter.
The powerful are, of course, greatly troubled hearing Jesus speak and seeing him act. To protect their interests, they fabricate charges and bring him to judgment.
And Jesus’ lot is our lot, unless …
… we stay indifferent to the poor, disregarding the Vincentian “leaving God for God”;
… we have no eyes nor heart directed toward those deemed useless, insisting that they be made to feel even more worthless;
… we are so intimidated by those who may put us in the box labeled Marxist that we hesitate to foster justice and we do not speak truth to power, unlike St. Vincent de Paul who spoke the truth to Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin;
… we reject our brand and Jesus’ cup.
Ross Reyes Dizon