The Baptism of Jesus

Engaging Faith | Mon, Jan 5, 2009

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

The Baptism of Jesus

 January 11, 2009


Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 or Isaiah 55:1-11

Acts 10:34-38 or 1 John 5:1-9

Mark 1:7-11


January is Poverty in America Awareness Month

January 11-17: National Vocation Awareness Week

January 18 - 25: Annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

January 19: Martin Luther King Day observed

January 20: Inauguration Day in the United States

January 21-22: National Prayer Vigil for Life


We must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality.

John Paul II

Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased"

John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Vocation of the Laity, Christifideles Laici

...  since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: "Do you wish to receive Baptism?" means at the same time to ask them: "Do you wish to become holy?" It means to set   before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).

John Paul II, Novo Millennio Inuente

The fundamental starting point for all of Catholic social teaching is the defense of human life and dignity: every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has an inviolable dignity, value, and worth, regardless of race, gender, class, or other human characteristics.

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, A Statement of the Catholic Bishops of the United States

In the Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, John Paul II warned of the need to "abandon a mentality in which the poor - as individuals and as peoples - are considered a burden, as irksome intruders trying to consume what others have produced."

Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace 2009

Thoughts for your consideration

Jesus is baptized by John. The Spirit descends upon Jesus.  The voice calls Jesus "beloved."  As the voice of God proclaims Jesus to be the "beloved,"  we can hear God affirming that same wonderful reality to all of us human creatures. There is a wonderful dignity in the life of every human person. This human dignity is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching.

This Spirit which descends upon Jesus is not just about Jesus, just as our baptism is not just about our personal relationship with God. We are baptized into a community. 

The Spirit which Isaiah proclaimed is a Spirit that will "bring justice to the nations" - a Spirit that will bring social and political healing to the people of the world. Catholic Social Teaching reminds us that the Spirit which we receive is not just an interior gift or feeling, but a gift that strives to bring healing between diverse peoples - nations, races, ethnic groups, etc. etc.  The Spirit of Baptism is a spirit that transforms the community and calls us to go out to the world.

Isaiah makes it clear that the light of this spirit is "for all the nations."  Peter's experience in Acts affirms this same truth.  The justice and healing are for all the nations.  The challenge of the scriptures is to make real today the promises of Isaiah and the commitment of Jesus. We seek a commitment to certain values and ways of living.  As Isaiah prophesizes, this Spirit of Jesus is about opening the eyes of the blind and releasing people from the dungeon. It is about service to those in need, care for those who are poor, and political and economic justice.  As Isaiah prophesizes, this Spirit of Jesus is a spirit of nonviolence - not even "breaking a bruised read."  We see in the baptism of Jesus a challenge to review our values and ways of living and to recommit ourselves to the nonviolent, radical love of Jesus.  "I have called you for the victory of justice ... a light for the nations."  

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

Isaiah talks of the call to bring justice onto the earth.

We have a vocation to work for justice.

How are you called to do that today?

How are we called to do that today?


When were you baptized? 

What does being a baptized Christian mean to you? 

What are the values that it commits you to live by?

Actions - Links

  • Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) has designated January as Poverty Awareness Month. Does your state or region make one of the top ten lists? See or
  • Christians around the world celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together from January 18 to 25, with the encouragement of the World Council of Churches' Faith and Order Commission and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. For more info go to: .
  • NRCAT, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture,, is organizing "January 11-20 - Ten Days of Prayer: Countdown to End Torture." "We call upon faith communities across the country to join our "Countdown to End Torture" by including an interfaith prayer in a worship service during the ten-day period between January 11th (the anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay) and January 20th (when President-elect Obama will take office and will have his first opportunity to end torture)." For more info and other resources click the "Countdown" red box in the lower left of the NRCAT homepage:

"Crazy Facts"

NNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, reports that over 75% of the estimated 1.4 million people living in the Gaza Strip are registered refugees. "The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have one of the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer."

In the United States, the National Priorities Project estimates that the cost of war in Iraq for the United States through the end of year 2008 is over $585 billion.

Prayers of Intercession

Response: Lord, help us establish justice on the earth.

We remember those living in places of war and terrorism, we pray....

We remember victims of torture, we pray.....

We remember the people of the troubled lands in the Middle East, we pray....

We remember the people in the suffering lands of Africa, especially the Congo, Darfur, and Zimbabwe, we pray....

We remember refugees and the homeless, we pray....

We remember those who work without a living wage, we pray....

We remember those who have no access of health care, we pray...

We remember those who go hungry today, we pray....


O God, we pray for all those in our world who are suffering from injustice:

For those who are discriminated against because of their race, color or religion;

For those imprisoned for working for the relief of oppression;

For those who are hounded for speaking the inconvenient truth;

For those tempted to violence as a cry against overwhelming hardship;

For those deprived of reasonable health and education;

For those suffering from hunger and famine;

For those too weak to help themselves and who have no one else to help them;

For the unemployed who cry out for work but do not find it.

We pray for anyone of our acquaintance who is personally affected by injustice.

Forgive us, Lord, if we unwittingly share in the conditions or in a system

that perpetuates injustice.

Show us how we can serve your children and make your love practical

by washing their feet.

Attributed to Mother Theresa of Calcutta

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