How many times have we seen the familiar scene is a movie: someone is just getting ready to fall down a cliff or dropped into an seemingly never-ending abyss and the hero or heroine grabs the person by the hand so that they can be lifted up and thereby saved from the fate of falling into what appears to be a pit of destruction. The scene has found its’ way onto the “Big Screen” so many times but I still wonder: why does it cause us to gasp and wait with bated breath to make sure that the person will be saved? I have been on the edge of my seat countless times watching such a scene and yet never tire of it.
As the Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, the Prophet Isaiah sets up a similar scene although we oftentimes do not associate the Sacrament of Baptism with such a radical display of Hollywood drama. Isaiah prophesies in the First Reading: “I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people, 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.”
(Is. 42: 6-7) Isaiah reminds us that God grasps us by the hand. It is a Hollywood scene par excellence! In the saving waters of Baptism, God literally rescues us because of the one perfect, lasting Sacrifice of Jesus by which we are saved and set free from sin and we are given a promise of immortality. This deeply theological reality should make us stop in our tracks next time we find ourselves dangling from the proverbial point of no return. God is there and grabs us by the hand and he pulls us up from what we might believe to be the pitfall so that we can enjoy the freedom of being His very own children. As we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, we reflect on the beginning of His public ministry. The three years when he went around simply doing good for those who felt abandoned and unwanted; those marginalized by society; those who felt as if they were unwelcomed and Jesus abolishes those cultural taboos and replaces them with a message of lasting hope. Things really haven’t changed all that much in 2000 years. Some people still feel unwelcomed and marginalized in society but it is our baptismal call to embrace them and to help them to experience the healing, redemptive and embracing love of Jesus Christ. A task that each of us has undertaken by virtue of our Baptism. As we celebrate Jesus’ own Baptism, we thank God that He has chosen to adopt us as His very own sons and daughters in Baptism and let us recommit ourselves each and every time we have occasion to dip our fingers into the holy water font and bless ourselves in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!