The Baptism of the Lord

Christ baptized by Juan Carreño de Miranda


















The Baptism of the Lord is the last of the Christmas feasts.* In some ways, it is a strange end, but Christmas itself is strange in its refusal to allow us to linger at the crib. In a few short days we go from the birth in Bethlehem, via the coming of the Magi, the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, the martyrdom of St Stephen and a nod in the direction of the hidden life at Nazareth, to this: the beginning of the public ministry with the baptism by John in the Jordan and that voice from heaven proclaiming, ‘This is my beloved. Listen to him!’

It is a reminder that life is not to be measured in length of years or in achievements, as we usually consider them, but in fidelity to vocation. The Baptism of Jesus marks the point where he definitively accepted the public phase of his mission, but there was no denial or denigration of what had gone before. The ‘hidden years’ are just as important for our salvation as the last three.

Each one of us is a vocation, called and chosen by the Lord to live in this particular place, at this particular time. Everything we do is, potentially at least, a means of attaining the holiness to which we are called. That knowledge is both a great freedom and a great responsibility As we celebrate the baptism of the Lord, let us ask his help in rededicating ourselves to his service — in the way that he chooses rather than the way we would choose for ourselves.

*The final ‘look-back’ at the Presentation is devotional rather than liturgical but provides an excuse, if excuse were needed, for Christmas pudding and other festive delicacies.

Note on the illustration A favourite of mine. Juan Carreño de Miranda (Spanish, 1614 – 1685) Christ Baptized, about 1682, Charcoal, red and white chalk, with stumping 35.2 x 20 cm (13 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Used by permission under the Open Content Programme, with thanks


3 thoughts on “The Baptism of the Lord”

  1. We can still focus on the Baby Jesus during the other celebrations of the Christmas season, and the Baptism of the Lord is the perfect end to that reflection for most people who were Baptized as a baby, or at least when they were very infantile in their faith, like me. It helps me say that although my Baptism makes me a part of His family, I should not linger there too long, even in my mind, because the mission God called me to is ready for me to make the next move. It is time to start eating meat and leave the milk behind. Even though the little time of reflection on the Baby Jesus was great, God does not want us to linger there long, because He became one of us to show us what we are capable of becoming, not what we are capable of watching Him be. Love your post…Keep up the great work Sister…With Love…John

  2. Thank you for introducing me to this picture, and for reminding me that Visio Divina can be as rewarding as Lectio. You write about time, looking forward and looking back and this image seems in its gestures to point even further forward. The crossed arms, protective perhaps of the new gifts received will soon open out into into the embrace of ministry and then finally, in a few short months, be flung wide upon the cross. The legs now stretched ungainly in stepping out of the river, will stride across the Galilean hillsides and then finally be crossed at the feet and nailed to
    the cross.

  3. The measurement of life in terms of fidelity to vocation is certainly not the yardstick the secular world uses, but it is the one and only accurate one, I believe. Harold and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary over the Christmas season, at a Mass presided over by the priest who heads the Marriage Tribunal in our Diocese as our pastor was away. That irony wasn’t lost on any of us. How quickly time passes, and how increasingly I appreciate the gift of my Baptism.

    Good to see you back, Sister, hope you are feeling better.

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