OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

The Baptism of the Lord (Year A)

It may seem strange, but this is a Christmas Feast. Not if we think of Christmas only in terms of the Baby in Bethlehem, but if we have followed the ideas of the Feasts of Holy Family and especially Epiphany, and have seen the Season in terms of the growing manifestation or appearing of the Son of God: first to the shepherds and then to the wise men from the East. Now in the River Jordan, Jesus, Son of Mary, is revealed to all as the fullness of all God’s promises: “This is my Son, the Beloved“. On this day we stand before the revelation of God’s love for us, such that he would send his only Son into the world. Christmas without the Baptism of the Lord, and the words that are spoken from heaven, would be incomplete, since it is only in them that we fully see the wonder of what happened in Bethlehem, that we fully understand the reason for the joy with which we celebrated Christmas Day. As we come to the end of Christmas today, and look forward to hearing the Gospel in Ordinary Time, we do so having been shown who it is we listen to: the only Son of God, the Beloved.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 42:1-4.6-7.
 
Since we are talking about revelation, the first reading opens us to the knowledge of who the Son of God is, and what he will do. Again, as in the Gospel, it is the Lord God who speaks, pointing out to us the One whom he has anointed. The reading is quite sensibly divided into paragraphs, so use them to dictate your pauses when reading. There is a slightly different tone between the first three paragraphs, and the last two. The first are about the Lord’s servant; the last are addressed to the servant. Again you must note the poetry of the reading, and the pictures and images it calls up. Be careful, however, because the language is sometimes a little obscure, and will need to be read very carefully if people are going to hear and follow you. (An example is the phrase “he will neither waver...” which is not a familiar usage.) Towards the end your tone should grow warmer and more positive, as you read the Lord’s address to his servant, especially in the last three lines.
 
Second Reading: Acts 10:34-38.
 
This is both a conclusion to Christmas and the beginning of Ordinary Time: as Peter speaks, he sums up the mystery of the Revealing of the Saviour to all nations which we have celebrated in recent weeks, but also looks forward, through the Baptism of Jesus and his Anointing with the Holy Spirit, to the work we will hear about in the next few weeks before Lent. In the first paragraph, echo Peter’s emphasis: “...but that anybody of any nationality...”. Similarly in the second paragraph, the phrase “Lord of all men...”  is to be brought out. The words “You must have heard...” is a lovely, natural phrase; pause before it and give it its full effect. Also the words “because God was with him...”are particularly relevant to today’s feast. A simple summary can seem very easy to read, but be careful not to rush and lose the congregation as they follow you through Peter’s argument.

From the Catechism

CCC694 "Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.

695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit, to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called "chrismation" in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew "messiah") means the one "anointed" by God's Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David. But Jesus is God's Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as "Christ." The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord. The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving. Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Now, fully established as "Christ" in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until "the saints" constitute - in their union with the humanity of the Son of God - that perfect man "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ": "the whole Christ," in St. Augustine's expression."

Gospel Wordsearch

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