The Baptism of the Lord - The Challenge of Baptism

Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, the beginning of His public ministry. It is a special moment in His Life. "You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased…" Jesus never did anything "by the book." John the Baptist pleaded with him that it was he who should be baptized. Peter argued that He would never wash his feet. The Pharisees pointed out that anyone who frequented with tax collectors and sinners could not possibly be the Messiah, the long-awaited conqueror. But Jesus reveals the startling difference that the reign of God will come about not through military conquest, but through compassion and peace ("a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench"). The Baptism of Jesus was a beginning - the beginning of the mission of compassion and justice, pre-figured in the Servant passage of Isaiah and echoed by the heavenly voice.

 Baptism is an extraordinary time in our lives as well: a time of wonder and awe, a celebration of hope and promise for us and for our families. But it is also the beginning of a challenging commitment to live the difficult and demanding life of the Gospel.

The whole of the Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature is something we rediscover anew each day. This pilgrimage takes place in the heart of each person, it should extend to the believing community, and then reach out to the whole of humanity.

Bringing the Good News of God's love and mercy into the world is the work of all baptized women and men. It takes place in the everyday dynamics of life, especially in the family, in the workplace, in schools, within neighborhoods and during moments of recreation and leisure. The Eucharist, the central and focal point of our lives, strengthens us to become this kind of witness. Can there be any better criterion for our actions in the Church?

Our baptism challenges us to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - even when the Gospel message is unwelcome in our hearts or in the world around us. We must truly become brothers and sisters, a pilgrim community in which all are loved, honored, and respected. And it is our responsibility - our public ministry - to be the presence of Christ in the lives of others - even among those who do not believe.

The challenge of Baptism is one in which all of us are entitled to hear: "You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased."