Last week we celebrated the end of the liturgical season of Christmas with the Baptism of our Lord, as we looked at the theology behind His baptism and the practical implications thereof. We also touched on what the Sacrament of Baptism means to us, as followers of Christ – an entry into a new covenant with an indelible marked being placed on us by the action and work of the Holy Spirit. We were furthermore challenged to live out our baptisms in faith, as those who with Jesus have passed through the waters and risen with Him into a new and glorious life.
Today we find ourselves in ‘Ordinary Time’, hence the Green we see – it’s been a while after the Purple of Advent and the White of Christmas. The story of Jesus’ Baptism features again in our Gospel lesson, and once more we find too, St John the Baptist playing a central role. His testimony and witness is key:
‘John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
His role was to point to Jesus. That is our role as Christians too, to point to Jesus, in all that we do, and in all that we say. Through our baptisms we have been untied to Jesus, or, as we saw last week, are ‘in Him’. And like St John the Baptist, it is necessary to ‘see’ and to ‘testify’ that Jesus is the Son of God, who has come, to ‘take away the sin of the world’.
The prophet Isaiah living many years before, foresaw and foretold in his vivid and descriptive prophecy of the sinless Servant dying and thereby atoning for the transgressions of His people, the Son of God coming as Messiah, like a ‘lamb [being] led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers’ (Is 53:7).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (# 608) ties the train of thought together so well:
‘After agreeing to baptize him along with the sinners, John the Baptist looked at Jesus and pointed him out as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. By doing so, he reveals that Jesus is at the same time the suffering Servant who silently allows himself to be led to the slaughter and who bears the sin of the multitudes, and also the Paschal Lamb, the symbol of Israel’s redemption at the first Passover. Christ’s whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus offered Himself to God the Father for the redemption of our sins, so that the ransom of sin, which is death, could be paid up in full.
‘… you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb. He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.’ (1 Pet 1:18-21).
The picture is of Jesus as the true Paschal Lamb, sinless, pure, untainted, shedding His precious blood for our salvation. Recalled is the Israelites deliverance and redemption from Egypt (Dt 7:8; 9:26), which, in turn, foreshadows and points towards Christ’s atoning work.
Suddenly ‘Ordinary Time’ takes on some not so ordinary dimension. It has an eye-opening start with exigent reminder of just who and what Jesus is, and indeed, holds a glimpse of that which lies ahead for us this Church year. And while the Green is symbolic of the life of faith ever growing within us, we have here a clear wake-up call, a call to discipleship, to start off right, and to know who we follow and why.
Also, we need to be prepared to tell others. It is both the mission and responsibility of every baptised believer to proclaim the Good News of God, and no one is excluded.
For it is a treacherous world out there. Full of evil. So much is wrong… There is tragedy, turmoil, confusion, war, cruelty, hatred, immorality, poverty, suffering, pride, hurt, pain and death. You don’t need me to tell you that. All of us certainly get to experience our fair share of the downside of living in a fallen world. But that which sets us apart is ‘the faith and hope in God’ that we have and is ours through Christ Jesus. Isn’t that’s why we come here? Isn’t that why we follow, worship, serve and obey Him? And others need to know this too. They die, for want of knowing Him.
And it really is up to us to point them to and share with them ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.