It is generally understood that his baptism was the moment when Jesus became fully aware of his true identity – that is, who he truly was and what God was calling him to do. It may have taken some time for him to reach this conclusion but it appears that his baptism was THE moment, when he accepted ‘This is my Son, the Beloved’.
It is suggested that Jesus identified with the mysterious person speaking in the First Reading (Isaiah 42: 1-4,6-7). This might have been about an individual’s calling to serve God or, possibly, the people of Israel being called to become a Servant of God with a distinctive mission. Whichever may have been the case, Jesus made it his own.
So Jesus would have known that dedicating his life to bringing people closer to God would involve rejection, suffering and, eventually, death. This realisation would have been with him throughout his ministry, casting a dark shadow over his life. No doubt he would have struggled at times to accept it. But, as we sang in the opening hymn, his response at his baptism was: ‘Here I am, Lord … I will hold your people in my heart’ If this is what God wanted, then he would do it.
We all know someone – or may have experienced it ourselves – who, just like Jesus did, has to suffer lovingly and generously in serving or caring for others. This may be single parents bringing up children on their own with little support; parents caring for a chronically ill child; a husband or wife caring for a spouse with a disability; a family member supporting an elderly (and demanding) parent … we all know someone for whom this is now their life’s task. Although not without times of anguish and hardship, they embrace this obligation in love (even, if at times, reluctantly) and fulfil it generously. If they are Christian, they may even see this as their baptismal calling, as Christ saw his commitment to serve us. We remember and pray for them in our Mass today.
And if there is personal suffering of this or any kind in your life, then in this Mass also let us ask for the grace and strength to embrace and endure it, just as Jesus did.
Holy Name, Jesmond
12 January 2020