Jesus as the anointed servant of God
This feast celebrates Jesus as the anointed servant of God, the one who suffers (first reading) for all (second reading). It is a bridge between the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time.
God our Creator, you offered your servant Jesus as Savior to all humankind. His coming among us opened our eyes to the light of justice, peace and salvation. By the River Jordan you anointed Jesus to carry out his mission. Anoint us now with your Holy Spirit so that we can hear the Word you are speaking to us. This we pray through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Pause for a moment and listen to one of the songs:
ISA 42:1-4, 6-7
The Suffering Servant
This reading is the first of four Isaian poems that speak of a mysterious suffering servant who will be God’s instrument in bringing salvation and justice to our world. As Isaiah is writing these poems, he is not thinking about a future Messiah named Jesus. More likely, he imagines a transformed and purified Israel who will be God’s instrument among the nations.
After the death and Resurrection of Jesus, the first Christians see in these poems a description of Jesus— the Suffering Servant par excellence—the one who through his suffering, death and Resurrection, has brought salvation and light to a dark world. Modest, gentle and compassionate, this Servant does not fit the popular image of a militaristic leader who would bring military victory to Israel over her aggressors. This gentle Servant will be empowered by God to carry out his mission.
Most significant in the description of the Servant is his endowment with God’s spirit. The Servant will exercise justice, but not the harsh, exacting kind. In and through Baptism, each of us is called to imitate the Servant spoken about in this reading. We have in Jesus and many of the saints—especially those who were advocates for the poor—great models whom we can seek to imitate through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus the Servant: Appointed and Approved by Dr. Mark Giszczak (Catholic Exchange)
The Suffering Servant by Mary M. McGlone (National Catholic Reporter)
The Lord will bless his people with peace
“The voice of the Lord over the waters” connects this psalm to the baptism of Jesus.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire. — Ps 29:1-2 (NAB)
Peter’s speech to Cornelius
Addressing the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion and Gentile, Peter tells Cornelius that because he has opened his heart to the message of Jesus, he is saved. The key point in this reading is that salvation is available to all who open their hearts to God. “God shows no partiality.”
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” — Acts 10:34-35 (NAB)
Jesus is baptized
Jesus comes to the River Jordan to be baptized by John. But John has a problem with Jesus’ request because his baptism is for sinners – which Jesus is not. Yet Jesus insists that John baptize him “to fulfill all righteousness.” Remember that Matthew is writing mainly to a Jewish Christian community. He is anxious to show them that Jesus is the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. The ‘sky opening,’ the ‘Spirit of God descending,’ and ‘a voice from the heavens’ all resonate with messianic prophecies that are fulfilled in Jesus.
Many scholars believe that Jesus insisted on receiving a “sinner’s baptism” as a way to identity himself with sinful humanity. In his Incarnation, Jesus takes upon himself the sins of the world. Scholars also believe that it is during his baptism experience that Jesus becomes aware of the type of Messiah that he is to become, namely, a suffering Messiah like the one described in Isaiah 53 (from which the first reading on Good Friday is taken).
John tried to prevent him saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. — Mt 3:14-15 (NAB)
The following questions are designed for small faith sharing groups where time may be limited.
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention? Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?
2. Have you ever suffered for doing what was just and right? Or do you know someone who has? How was that experience for you?
3. The second reading states that our God is an all-inclusive God who shows no partiality. What are some forms of partiality we witness in our Church or society today?
4. Each of us has been “baptized with the spirit and fire.” What does this mean to you? What should it mean for the way we live our lives as baptizedChristians?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
Responding to the Word
Suggestions on ways to act:
1. Be more aware of your baptismal call to be the presence of Christ in our world.
2. Be more aware of how you have received the power of the Holy Spirit to help you live out this call.
Having listened to God’s Word and listened to others’ reflections on it, take a quiet moment to reflect on what you are hearing God say to you. Your response will be what you bring to Eucharist on Sunday, asking Jesus to help you respond as he asks of you. When ready, jot down your reflections.
Praying with the Word
Jesus, in and through the Sacrament of Baptism, you filled me with your life and love. Help me to be more fully aware of this blessing in my daily life.
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are the creator of all of us. We are your handiwork. Fill me with an awareness of your Holy Spirit that I might see all people the way you do. Empower me to follow the example of your Son and servant, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Each week Kevin Aldrich, a veteran Catholic educator who teaches high school theology and English, offers a doctrinal and practical formation perspective to each week’s scripture readings under the following headings:
You can read more of what Kevin Aldrich has to say at Homily Doctrine Outlines
from Homiletic Directory
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