Here in Edmonton people are reeling from the terrible fact that thirty of our fellow Edmontonians were killed in that plane shot down outside of Tehran. This unspeakably atrocious event is a vivid and jarring reminder that our world is in many ways a very dangerous place, marked by tensions among nations and the tragic consequences thereof, suffered mostly by innocent people. Particularly striking is the fact that this event took place in the final days of the Christmas season, which on Sunday drew to a close. In this sacred time we have heralded the birth of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, and his revelation among us as Saviour of the world. Yet the tragic occurrence in Tehran, and so many other instances of suffering and grief, serve as stark reminders that the peace and light Christ came to bring have yet fully to be embraced.
In this context, the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord offers an important and timely reminder of the significance of our own Baptism. People baptized in Christ do not have the option of sitting back as passive spectators upon a world gone awry. The baptized are sent into the world with the message of the Gospel, which alone has the power to bring the true and lasting reconciliation we all seek. From the moment we are baptized, the life of Jesus becomes the principle of our own, which means that our Christian life is shaped by consciously imitating Christ in all that we do and by accepting as our own the mission that belongs properly to him. Some aspects of that mission are adumbrated for us in the sacred texts given for the Feast.
At his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was revealed as the Eternal Son of God, who, obedient to the will of the Father, lowered himself to our level and entered into the full reality of our suffering, in order to redeem us by the Cross. Since by our baptism we are united to Christ, we, too, must be ready to die to ourselves and willing to step into the reality of suffering around us with the light and hope of God’s love.
By identifying Jesus as His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased, the Father Himself identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant, foretold by Isaiah as the One who would take the suffering of humanity upon himself in order to liberate the people through the establishment of justice. Since by baptism we share in the Lord’s mission, it calls us to be agents of God’s justice in the world.
St. Peter recalls how Jesus, having been anointed with the Holy Spirit and power at his baptism, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” At our baptismal washing, we were given the same Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus at the waters of the Jordan. His mission becomes ours, which means that we are sent without limit or qualification to all people to do good and announce the victory over evil that is given to the world in Christ Jesus.
Pope Francis insists often that a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ is a missionary disciple of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, we have an identity – sons and daughters of our heavenly Father – and we have a mission – agents of the peace and justice that Christ came to bring. Let us pray for the grace to live our Baptism with joy and embrace with hope the mission to which it summons us.