“I will keep my love for him forever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I tell you not only will the covenant stand firm for him, it only stands at all because of him. Isaiah sees this well from his own vantage point in history some 7 centuries before God’s Christ is made manifest. What was “Epiphany” after all? Christ is made manifest to the Gentiles/the nations as represented by the Magi. It is a big jump in the telling of Christ live chronologically from Nativity, to the circumcision at 8 days, now onto Baptism at about 30. What about all the rest? It is not all that abnormal to tell a story this way……..just think of an obit.
Have you ever had an Epiphany? One of the Ah! Ha! moments? What is Isaiah having right here. “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you. I have given you as a covenant to the people a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Passages like this is why Isaiah is called the 5th Gospel. He is so perfectly prophesying the life and ministry of Christ Jesus that it is just too close to be happenstance. What are the things Jesus did in his earthy life? Cure the blind, heal the lame, even raised the dead. Who are we told Christ is “the way the truth and the light.”
Even as far back as Isaiah there is a sense the knowledge of God, and later on his Son Christ Jesus is not something to be hidden away inside the Jewish people. For sure it is for them, but is also to be a light to the nations.
These lections today do a nice job in soundly rooting the person of Jesus in the Old Testiment line of David, which is very Jewish, while at the same time using the very Jewish text of the Prophet to show the universality of his message
St. Peter confirms the universal target of the Gospel of Christ as well as we hear in Acts, “Truly I perceive that God show no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Who is St. Peter referring to? All nations (“ethnos”) and peoples. Do you know another word for this kind of faith? It is called Catholic, that is universal, that is what has been held by all, always and everywhere. Catholic is not a noun; it is rather more an adjective describing our Christian faith as later defined in our wonderful creeds.
Today’s Gospel does a wonderful job highlighting for us the mysterious truths contained in the first few articles of the Creed of Nicea. Christ undergoes the very human act of being baptized by John the Baptist. What is Christ being baptized for? Forgiveness of sins? Hardly. He is showing us the model of what humanity fully realized is. He is giving us the paradigm by which to live and being a model for us. He is also beginning a Priestly career and ministry as we see Moses point the way by baptizing the sons of Aaron in Leviticus 8:6 They are washed with water before the ministry undertaken.
By this point St. John the Baptist has already had his epiphany, as he seems to have a pretty good idea that Jesus is the Christ. I am thinking by the end of the baptism he really had no doubt whatsoever. If he were having any misgivings as to whom he was dealing with one would think the voice from Heaven stating Jesus’ identity and relationship to the Father would clear matters up.
I think the challenge to us from our readings today is two-fold. We need to come away from Epiphany and the Baptism of our Lord renewing our own recognition who Christ is. We say it but do we really get the profound nature of it? This is the personal side of being a Christian and being convinced through grace and faith that Christ is exactly who he says he is.
Then the second part is our realization of the universal/Catholic nature of our faith in Christ, and how we are called to speak that message to the nations/our fair city/ your neighbors as well. St. Peter and the Prophet clearly tell us to reach out. You and I do this by not being afraid to invite people to your Church for word and Sacrament, and by the wonderful example of your manifestation of a Christian life. This is done without saying too much. I want you all to look so full of Christian joy and virtue that anybody would want to have that thing that makes you such a fulfilled person.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.
Fr. Randy Rogers