God's Word on Sunday: The Lord’s word is always at work

  • January 3, 2021

Baptism of the Lord (Year B) Jan. 10 (Isaiah 55:1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11)

Without food and water, all life withers and dies. What a fitting biblical metaphor for God! We are invited to come to the waters and to receive wine and milk — all for free. No preconditions or charges and all are included. The prophet exults in God’s generosity. The food is not only abundant, but also the best. At the same time, he is puzzled: why, in the face of such generosity, are so many people uninterested? Why do they fling away their money and their energy on things that are worthless and do not satisfy? 

Isaiah urges people to seek the Lord while God is still near and can be found. God is not going anywhere but might become invisible to us if our minds and hearts become dull, lifeless and numbed to goodness, hope and truth. The moment to seek God is now, not in the vague future.

Isaiah also revealed a lot about God and how God works. Never mind trying to figure out or define God according to human understanding. God is utterly unlike us. And when we think that God is absent from our world, we are sadly mistaken. The word of God is God’s will and creative energy, and it takes many forms. It can be expressed in creation or historical events. Art, music and poetry can also convey God’s word. Most importantly, God’s word is at work everywhere and at all times. It covers the Earth like the rain and the snow and will not return to God until its mission is complete. The secret is to develop a sensitivity to the presence of the word so that we can see and hear. We need never lament God’s seeming absence in the world. Let those with ears, hear, and those with eyes, see.

Jesus is the Word made flesh — the true revelation of God. John emphasizes the Lord’s humanity in the form of blood and water to counter those who denied the incarnation. John proclaims that those believing in Jesus are reborn as children of God. In John’s theology, “believing” is more than agreeing to a theological formula or doctrine. Johannine faith is always joined with humble service and self-giving love and continual abiding in Jesus. This is the faith that conquers the “world” inside the human mind and heart.

That Jesus was baptized at the hands of John was difficult for early Christians. John’s baptism was one of repentance, but Jesus was proclaimed as the sinless one. In Matthew, Jesus even engages in a bit of dialogue with John to “explain” the reason for the baptism. The letter of John insists Jesus came to us by water and blood, symbolizing human nature. The divine Spirit then bears witness to His identity and mission.

As Jesus came out of the water, the heavens were “torn open,” an apocalyptic revelation giving us a glimpse into the heavenly realm. The heavenly voice affirmed not only the status of Jesus as the divine son, but also divine approval for Him and His mission. This was the turning point in the life of Jesus. All was clear to Him at this point, and the next step was His testing in the wilderness.

There are many paths our life could take, all of them useful and praiseworthy. The guidance we receive will depend greatly on the degree of openness, letting go and generosity we show in offering ourselves to God. With His baptism, Jesus shared in the experience of our human nature. By our baptism, we begin to share in His.