Baptism of Jesus
January 9, 2022
Susan Quaintance OSB, St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago, IL
Is 42:1-4, 6-7 or Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Though the Advent Sunday liturgies didn’t give us any Isaiah, there has been plenty in the Christmas season. Today, as we come to the close of the extended feast with the Baptism of the Lord, we hear the words of Isaiah’s first Suffering Servant Song in the first reading.
Like all four of these songs (and, really, just about anything in scripture), there are layers of meanings and a multiplicity of questions. Even when these words were first written, there was uncertainty about to whom they were addressed. A single king? Every king? The nation of Israel? On this feast, clearly, we are meant to apply them to Jesus; after all, we hear them echoed in the gospel story of his baptism in the Jordan. But if we are the body of Christ, pulled into his story through our own baptisms, then they also pertain to us. What I really love about scripture study (though it is sometimes hard to tame the playful monkeys in my mind) is that all of these layers can exist together in one exquisitely complicated fabric of significance. Pull one thread and something else bubbles up. It’s part of the design.
The song here describes the qualities of the servant effectively: beloved by God (verse 1a); chosen for a clear mission (verses 1b, 4); quiet (verse 2); gentle (verse 3); directed through and for divine purpose (verse 6); liberating (verse 7).
It’s easy to see those qualities applied to Jesus. There they are in all the stories we know so well. Such beautiful examples. So very far away.
But if they are applied to me? Yousa. Even after a lifetime of thinking about my call to proclaim the gospel in the world, it’s daunting. I can think of all too many times when I have shown myself to be rough and self-centered and content with all manner of darkness. Maybe, God, you should choose somebody else.
But just as Jesus must have felt his soul turned inside out at the words “my chosen one with whom I am pleased,” I, too, stand in this barely believable benediction. What a difference that makes. It lends courage and engenders a desire to be more than I am today.
As I hear those words directed to Jesus, to me, to those with whom I stand, may I know the One who calls and claim that power which that One gives. (Photo by David Bumgardner on Unsplash)
Sister Susan Quaintance, OSB, is a member of St. Scholastica Monastery in Chicago, IL. She has served her community in several positions, including formation director, secretary, and liturgy committee member. She is currently Director of Client Services at Comfort Keepers, an in-home caregiving company.