Sunday Word

Baptism of the Lord: ‘His gentle justice would be a light for the nations’

Father David Scotchie
Sunday, Jan. 13 Baptism of the Lord
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29:1-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22

The Presbyterian minister William Barclay wrote that of all the days in a person’s life, two days were the most special: “the day we are born and the day we discover why.”

Three weeks ago at Christmas, we celebrated the day Jesus was born. At overflowing Masses we caroled “O Come All Ye Faithful” while the priest entered in a cloud of incense. During communion, it was our turn to process to the altar as we sang, “Silent Night.” On Christmas Day we celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ and the incarnation of the Son of God.

Today, the Baptism of the Lord, we discover why he was born. And the reason was not what the people had expected.

John the Baptist had promised a mighty Messiah. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” But when the moment came, Jesus humbly submitted to his baptism. Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit like a dove descended on him.

Noah had sent out a dove from the ark to see whether the waters still covered the earth. The dove came back toward evening and there in its bill was an olive leaf. Noah knew then that the flood had fallen. God’s vengeance on sinful creation had passed, and peace between heaven and earth had been restored.

The baptism of Jesus, marked with the Holy Spirit like a dove, inaugurated a new beginning. Peace between heaven and earth had been restored. The beloved Son had been anointed to “bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting.” His gentle justice would be a light for the nations, “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Isaiah 42:3, 7).

Loaded with all our guilt on his shoulders, he had borne our sins down into the depths of the Jordan. Coming up from the waters, he rose from the water in anticipation of his resurrection that broke the bonds of sin and death.

The baptism of Jesus revealed that he had been born to die and rise that the kingdom of God come. What’s more, it revealed not just why he had been born. His baptism reveals why we are born.

Our culture tells us that we are born without any real purpose or place except for whatever we create for ourselves. It is up to us to give meaning to our lives.

If only this view considered the Baptism of Jesus. It would see that through our own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are reborn. We are given new birth by water and the Spirit. As by adoption, we become sons and daughters of God.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” Through his baptism, his Father became our Father. We have become brothers and sisters to one another in Christ. The kingdom comes. The meaning of our lives is found in the baptism of the Lord. For this we are born, and for this we live.

The hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” proclaims this truth. “Born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.” With the angels we praise him, “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king.”

To take to prayer: Two days are the most special: “the day we are born and the day we discover why.” What day were you baptized?

The Magi have arrived

Father David Scotchie
Epiphany, Jan. 6, 2019
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The magi have finally arrived. After the shepherds had returned to the Bethlehem pastures and long after the angels had sung Glory to God, the magi from the faraway east finally turned up.

Like guests a day late for a New Year’s party, what do you do with them? Set out the leftover appetizers? Uncork a bottle? Stop cleaning and ask, “How was your trip?”

The magi did not want to play with a baby. They did not want to visit Mary and Joseph, nice folks as they were. They insisted on worshipping the newborn king. They brought gifts in homage.

The first gift the magi brought was gold.

You know the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules. Rulers claim their subjects’ loyalty, taxes, and swords in exchange for protection and prosperity. The rules of the marketplace are to work hard, take care of your own, and don’t rock the boat. In exchange we expect security, good order, and a chance to improve our lot.

Jesus Christ, however, has different rules. The Lord made justice, especially for the poor, the law of his land. In the New Testament, Jesus added rules such as love your enemy, forgive, and lay down your life for another. Those who keep his rules live in his kingdom. The gift of gold meant God rules.

The second gift that the magi brought was frankincense. Frankincense meant that the child Jesus was divine. Worship him and him alone. In other words, God comes first.

We’d like to have time to pray during the week, but there’s the soccer game, the doctor visit, and work, work, work.

One family, to give a place of honor to God in their home, set up a Family Altar In The Home. (FAITH, get it?) It had a candle, a crucifix, and a Bible. Depending on the season, they added an Advent wreath.

Every Sunday we sing with the angels, “Glory to God.” We proclaim, “You alone are the holy one, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ.”

The first commandment comes first and everything else falls into place. The gift of frankincense meant God comes first.

The third gift the magi brought was myrrh. Myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead. Like bringing formaldehyde to a baby shower, their gift meant that the birth of Jesus was not about precious moments and baby books. Jesus was born to die.

The tree that takes away the sins of the world is not the Christmas tree. The tree that saves is the tree of life upon which hung the Savior of the world.

Puerto Ricans have a long tradition of “los tres reyes.” Year round, not just at Christmas time, a typical Puerto Rican home has carvings of the three kings on display. In one modern carving, the three kings are like finger puppets on a hand, with Mary and Joseph on the other two fingers. From the middle of the pink hand holding up this holy quintet runs a red trickle. The power of Christ, even from birth, is the power of the cross. The gift of myrrh meant the immortal Son of God became mortal to die for our sins.

The Magi have arrived



The magi have finally arrived. After the shepherds had returned to the Bethlehem pastures and long after the angels had sung Glory to God, the magi from the faraway east finally turned up.

Like guests a day late for a New Year’s party, what do you do with them? Set out the leftover appetizers? Uncork a bottle? Stop cleaning and ask, “How was your trip?” The magi did not want to play with a baby. They did not want to visit Mary and Joseph, nice folks as they were. They insisted on worshipping the newborn king. They brought gifts in homage.

The first gift the magi brought was gold. You know the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules. Rulers claim their subjects’ loyalty, taxes, and swords in exchange for protection and prosperity. The rules of the marketplace are to work hard, take care of your own, and don’t rock the boat. In exchange we expect security, good order, and a chance to improve our lot.

Jesus Christ, however, has different rules. The Lord made justice, especially for the poor, the law of his land. In the New Testament, Jesus added rules such as love your enemy, forgive, and lay down your life for another. Those who keep his rules live in his kingdom. The gift of gold meant God rules.

The second gift that the magi brought was frankincense. Frankincense meant that the child Jesus was divine. Worship him and him alone. In other words, God comes first. We’d like to have time to pray during the week, but there’s the soccer game, the doctor visit, and work, work, work.

One family, to give a place of honor to God in their home, set up a Family Altar In The Home. (FAITH, get it?) It had a candle, a crucifix, and a Bible. Depending on the season, they added an Advent wreath.

Every Sunday we sing with the angels, “Glory to God.” We proclaim, “You alone are the holy one, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ.” The first commandment comes first and everything else falls into place. The gift of frankincense meant God comes first.

The third gift the magi brought was myrrh. Myrrh was a spice used to embalm the dead. Like bringing formaldehyde to a baby shower, their gift meant that the birth of Jesus was not about precious moments and baby books. Jesus was born to die.

The tree that takes away the sins of the world is not the Christmas tree. The tree that saves is the tree of life upon which hung the Savior of the world.

Puerto Ricans have a long tradition of “los tres reyes.” Year round, not just at Christmas time, a typical Puerto Rican home has carvings of the three kings on display. In one modern carving, the three kings are like finger puppets on a hand, with Mary and Joseph on the other two fingers. From the middle of the pink hand holding up this holy quintet runs a red trickle. The power of Christ, even from birth, is the power of the cross. The gift of myrrh meant the immortal Son of God became mortal to die for our sins. The Christmas season has come and gone, leaving behind a newborn king. Like the magi, we must place before him what we hold dear and near. We must bow down and offer our position, priorities, and power to the Lord.

To take to prayer: Which gift—gold, frankincense, or myrrh—are you called to offer the Lord?

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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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