Branching Out Blog

'Hear the Word!' by Bill Ayres: The Baptism of the Lord

Posted by Bill Ayres on Jan 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

John the Baptist - Caravaggio

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

(Chapter 55:1-15)

This reading begins, “Thus says the Lord: all who are thirsty, come to the water.” The Middle East was and is a thirsty place, a desert area. We tend to take water for granted today, but for the Jews it was life itself. Isaiah portrays a loving, bountiful God who promises to give plentiful water and food to the people and offers to “renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.”

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, God seeks out the people even after they have betrayed him and suffered because of their sins. Our God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is never far from us and actively seeks us out. Isn’t that amazing, God pursuing us? Sometimes the Jewish people felt that God had abandoned them. That was never the case and is not now with us. God pursues us in so many ways that we are not even aware of. Do you think that God is pursuing you now in your life? How? What is God calling you to do? The Holy Spirit who lives within you will guide you discern how God is calling you.

Responsorial Psalm from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

(Chapter 12:2-3,4, 5-6)

“You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” This is not just any water; it is from the spring of salvation. Throughout history, people have sought a fountain of youth and even risked their lives for it. There is no fountain of youth, but there are the “springs of salvation.” They will renew us if we will drink from this never-ending spring.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint John

(Chapter 5:1-9)

The three letters of John and the Gospel of John were written long after the death of Jesus, probably at the end of the first century. The community for which they were written has had time to reflect on the meaning of Jesus and his relationship with the Father. They believed that Jesus is the Son of God and that he has come through water (baptism) and blood (his crucifixion), and that the Spirit testifies to this. We can see how members of the early Church were struggling to find the right words to express their belief in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Almost two thousand years later, we still live in this great mystery of the Holy Trinity. Our God is not an isolated being but rather a community of persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Neither are we isolated beings. If we have been created in the image and likeness of God, that means that we are communal beings. Let us rejoice that we are never alone and serve one another in the human community.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

(Chapter 1:7-11)

John the Baptist was a man on a mission, a dual mission. He preached and performed a baptism of water for the forgiveness of sins for some time before the ministry of Jesus began. He was also to prepare the way for Jesus. He knew his limitations and was dedicated to his mission. He knew that the baptism that Jesus brought was more powerful, giving people the presence of the Spirit.

That is the primary purpose of the sacrament of baptism. The water is a sign of life, in this case a new life in the Spirit. I have mentioned before in these commentaries that I did not know as a child or even as a young man that the presence of the Spirit was in me and everyone else. That changed my life profoundly. I have never felt alone, and I developed a deeper respect and love for my fellow humans.

The other dimension of baptism is that we become part of a community, a community of believers in Jesus. We are not a bunch of isolated individuals. We are connected to one another in a community of love above all else. That is the powerful messages that Pope Francis is proclaiming. It is not new, but it needs to be said and lived ever anew.


John the Baptist, painting by Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merici)

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.

Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.


Topics: catholic renew progam, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, receive the Holy Spirit, RENEW International, savior, Sunday readings

Bill Ayres

Written by Bill Ayres

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