The Baptism of Jesus marks the first Sunday of Ordinary Time. That is an amazing confluence of circumstance: a Baptism, a new beginning; and the title, “ordinary” as if every day is the same. And the truth of that lies in what Baptism is all about: to be loved, and to be accompanied throughout life by that love, that sense that someone cares so deeply.
Liturgically, Ordinary Time is carved into 34 weeks, distinct from Advent and Christmas, separate from Lent and Easter. It marches through the Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament stories of who Jesus was and how He was and how people intereacted with Him. The debate about origin of stories, historical accuracy, relevance, does not change the idea that this was a person who believed and saw Himself as so loved, so cared for, in spite of and maybe because of, His human experiences. There is a strength to be found in that conviction, and in the sense of purpose such a gift inspires: it means we are each MEANT to be here, to be human, and that in and of itself gives each life value. It definitively alters perceptions about life and humanity, cultures and creation.
In earlier thinking, I saw the tradition of it linking generations and cultures; I saw congegarions living it, and I believed that the strength of those two impelled and empowered touching the future. Today I saw that the very foundation of Baptism is about becoming connected, consciously choosing to participate in a meaningful way of life and reflective process of being. It is about taking the moments to consider what that love actually means, trusting its existence and entrusting self to the idea that there is something so much more.
The story does not sparkle with the same glitter as the Christmas story, but it is even more of an invitation to connect in very human ways with one another. Countless artists have documented the very compelling image of Jesus in the Jordan and his cousin, John, baptizing him. But to tenderly imagine the scene in the depth of self opens a different portal, one that leads to a land of daring contemplation. What does the Spirit of God mean? What does it mean to be chosen? To be the Beloved? To be the one in whom God is well-pleased? To know with certainty that the Spirit is a faithful companion?
As a Catholic, I am conscious that those gifts were given in Baptism to me as well. The rite was somewhat different; the location and context were well over a thousand years later. And yet, that sacrament was the first step towards ordinary times. And it is in the very ordinary times that I discover what it actually means to be human, what kind of person I really am, what needs drive me and what purpose compels me. When I consider all that, I am conscious that to be Catholic demands personal reflection and thought, consciously connecting with others. It means going to the river and knowing the sensation of water on my skin, the air pressing against me and the richness of the moment.
Baptism is not a static ceremony: it is something lived, something experienced in the most ordinary of times. Something that transforms those seemingly ordinary moments into Divine exchanges.