Baptism of the Lord (B)
January 08, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








Almighty ever-living God,
who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan
and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him,
solemnly declared him your beloved Son,
grant that your children by adoption,
reborn of water and the Holy Spirit,
may always be well pleasing to you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Isaiah 55:1-11

All you who are thirsty,
  come to the water!
You who have no money,
  come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
  drink wine and milk!

Why spend your money for what is not bread;
  your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
  you shall delight in rich fare.  
Come to me heedfully, listen,
  that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
  the benefits assured to David.  
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
  a leader and commander of nations,  
So shall you summon a nation you knew not,
  and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
Because of the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel,
  who has glorified you.  
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
  call him while he is near.  
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
  and the wicked man his thoughts;
Let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
  to our God, who is generous in forgiving.  
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
  nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.  
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
  so high are my ways above your ways
  and my thoughts above your thoughts.  
For just as from the heavens
  the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
  till they have watered the earth,
  making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to him who sows
  and bread to him who eats,  
So shall my word be
  that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
  but shall do my will,
  achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm  Isaiah 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R/. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation. R/.

Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name. R/.

Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel! R/.

Second Reading I John 5:1-9

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.

Gospel Acclamation


Gospel Mark 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Catena Nova

Today the Source of all the graces of baptism comes himself to be baptized in the river Jordan, there to make himself known to the world. Seeing him approach, John stretches out his hand to hold him back, protesting: Lord, by your own baptism you sanctify all others; yours is the true baptism, the source of perfect holiness. How can you wish to submit to mine? I am not fit even to unfasten your sandal straps, let alone to lay my hand upon your venerable head. But the Lord replies, I wish it to be so. Come and baptize me; do as I wish, for surely you cannot refuse me. Why do you hesitate, why are you so afraid? Do you not realize that the baptism I ask for is mine by every right? By my baptism the waters will be sanctified, receiving from me fire and the Holy Spirit. Unless I am immersed in them they will never be empowered to bring forth children to eternal life. There is every reason for you to let me have my way and do what I am asking you to do. Did I not baptize you when you were in your mother’s womb? Now it is your turn to baptize me in the Jordan. So come, then, carry out your appointed task. To this John answers: your servant is utterly helpless. Savior of all, have mercy on me! I am not fit even to unfasten your sandal straps, let alone to lay my hand upon your venerable head. But I hear your command, Lord, and in obedience to your word I come to give you that baptism to which your own love impels you. Man of dust that I am, let deepest reverence enfold me when I behold the height to which I have been called—even to laying my hand on the head of my Maker! See the hosts of heaven hushed and still, as the all-holy Bridegroom goes down into the Jordan. No sooner is he baptized than he comes up from the waters, his splendor shining forth over the earth. The gates of heaven are opened, and the Father’s voice is heard: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All who are present stand in awe as they watch the Spirit descend to bear witness to him. O come, all you peoples, worship him! Praise to you, Lord, for your glorious epiphany which brings joy to us all! The whole world has become radiant with the light of your manifestation (St. Ephrem the Syrian).

Christ appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it lustre and joy. He bore the world’s sin and crushed the world’s enemy. He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men and women. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles. For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Saviour, and the whole world is filled with joy. Today’s feast of the Epiphany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas. On the feast of the Saviour’s birth, the earth rejoiced because it bore the Lord in a manger; but on today’s feast of the Epiphany it is the sea that is glad and leaps for joy; the sea is glad because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan. At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today’s feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father. At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river. Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man. Today every creature shouts in resounding song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in every age, for this is not his first coming. And who is he? Tell us more clearly, I beg you, blessed David: The Lord is God and has shone upon us. David is not alone in prophesying this; the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying: The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, and instructing us. Not for some, but for all. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all. Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who was baptized. In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odour of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove, reveals the Lord of mercy (St Proclus of Constantinople).

The Gospel tells us that the Lord went to the Jordan River to be baptized and that he wished to consecrate himself in the river by signs from heaven. Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events. At Christmas he was born a man; today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin; today he is born in mystery. When he was born a man, his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when he says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: listen to him. The mother caresses the tender baby on her lap; the Father serves his Son by his loving testimony. The mother holds the child for the Magi to adore; the Father reveals that his Son is to be worshipped by all the nations. That is why the Lord Jesus went to the river for baptism; that is why he wanted his holy body to be washed with Jordan’s water. Someone might ask, “Why would a holy man desire baptism?” Listen to the answer: Christ is baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the waters which he touched. For the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Saviour is washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence.  I understand the mystery as this. The column of fire went before the sons of Israel through the Red Sea so they could follow on their brave journey; the column went first through the waters to prepare a path for those who followed. As the apostle Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of baptism. Clearly it was baptism in a certain sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water. But Christ the Lord does all these things: in the column of fire he went through the sea before the children of Israel; so now, in the column of his body, he goes through baptism before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the waters; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the bath of baptism (St. Maximus of Turin).

Christ is bathed in light; let us also be bathed in light. Christ is baptized; let us also go down with him, and rise with him. John is baptizing when Jesus draws near. Perhaps he comes to sanctify his baptizer; certainly he comes to bury sinful humanity in the waters. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and in readiness for us; he who is spirit and flesh comes to begin a new creation through the Spirit and water. The Baptist protests; Jesus insists. Then John says: I ought to be baptized by you. He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Bridegroom, the greatest of all born of woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of him who was adored in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of him who has already come and is to come again. I ought to be baptized by you: we should also add, “and for you,” for John is to be baptized in blood, washed clean like Peter, not only by the washing of his feet. Jesus rises from the waters; the world rises with him. The heavens, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, are rent open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, bearing witness to his Godhead. A voice bears witness to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit descends in bodily form like the dove that so long ago announced the ending of the flood and so gives honour to the body that is one with God. Today let us do honour to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received – though not in its fullness – a ray of its splendour, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. (Saint Gregory Nazianzen).

The Lord was baptized not so that the waters would cleanse him but so that he could cleanse them, purifying them by his sinless flesh to assume the power of baptism. When the children of Israel passed through the river Jordan they entered the promised land. What is special about Christ’s baptism is that it admits one to the kingdom of God: unless one is born again of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Christ’s passion opened heaven to men and women in general, but needs to be applied to those who are to enter heaven through baptism: when we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized in his death. As the begetter of the Word of the Father was appropriately revealed at Christ’s baptism through a voice, a voice bearing witness to the Sonship of the Word. At the moment when Christ came of age, and the time was opportune for him to teach and work miracles and turn people to himself, his Father witnessed publicly to his divinity so that his teaching might be believed (St. Thomas Aquinas).

Christ came for baptism partly out of obedience towards the One who sent John. Other reasons were to make himself known, to make a beginning of guiding us towards salvation, and to confirm to his followers, who were baptized in accordance with his teaching and commandments, that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism, and that through the Holy Spirit baptism is made a cleansing remedy for the stains sunk deeply into us, because of having been born and living in the passions. Even if the heavy burden of mortal flesh still weighs them down so as to exercise, test, and correct them, and so that they might forsake he wretchedness of this world, invisibly, however, they have put on Christ (Gal 3:27), so they can strive to share in his manner of life here and now, and afterwards, when they depart hence, to be partakers of his blessedness, radiance, and incorruption. Just as through one man, Adam, liability to death passed, down by heredity to those born afterwards, so the grace of eternal and heavenly life passed down from the one divine and human Word to all those born again of him (St. Gregory Palamas).

Do you not see the cloud that’s full of light—

It reaches


this blaze from splendent skies!—

All-silent, let us gaze upon the sight

To fix on Changeless Beauty with our eyes.

A look from water is made clear,

God’s purity is formed in us by this.

That he may deify, let us dwell here—

Our souls in his soul, and our eyes in his.

Himself, he comes to kiss us! so to be

Our love beyond the telling. In his shade

(He hovers over, to protect us) we

By sight of him are fruitful virgins made.

The Father’s Splendor, beautiful; how bright

Is Christ our Lord. Lit by Divinity,

He is himself a burning hearth of Light

That wraps his own about with radiancy...

When will it end at last, our waiting-state?

When, offer up ourselves as though to fire?

Let us adore our dear Lamb as we wait.

To purify us— this is his desire.

Do you not feel a passion now to show

To Christ a little of


love? That way

I want to die: to say ‘I love you, so

As you did, I yield up myself today! (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity).


Night Falls

            The boy watched as his companion climbed the gallows. About to hanged.  The victim was around ten years old. Why would such a thing be done to a mere child?  Because someone else broke the rules. The boy, with the sad face of an angel, had the noose placed around his neck. While an old man was heard to groan:  “Where is God?  Where is He?  Where can He be now?”  And a voice within him answered, “Where?”  “Here He is -- He has been hanged here on these gallows.”

This incident was marked indelibly on the memory of Elie Wiesel, the companion of the boy hanged in the death camp at Auschwitz. It is just one story which the Nobel Prize winner dedicated his life to telling, lest the world forget the horrors of the Holocaust committed by the Nazis.

            So why do the innocent suffer? This question that can tax faith to its limits is not easy to answer. Most replies end up sounding trite, abstract, unconvincing. Philosophers and theologians risk their credibility when they attempt to explain the mystery of suffering. As do preachers of the Gospel. Yet, their credibility would be even more at risk if they failed to address the problem of suffering in a world governed by a good and merciful God.

           The feast of the Lord’s baptism gives us a chance to face the question. For, in some way, the question of why innocent people suffer, is like asking why Jesus came to be baptized by John. Imagine the scene. Here’s the austere figure of the Baptist, clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, eating locusts and wild honey, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People from the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him, being baptized in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins (cf. Mk. 1: 4-6).

           And then it happened. Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John (G). But why? Is this not the Sinless One, the beloved Son of God, with whom the Father is well pleased? What sins did he confess? Why should the innocent take part in the affairs of the guilty?

           That man in the concentration camp knew the answer -- when he saw a ten year old boy hanged. That voice inside him revealed the mystery of suffering. He saw the scene before him in the only way that makes any sense. He saw God hanging there. Suffering with us, and in us, and for us. Taking our place, and offering us his own.

           Like Jesus did when he came to the Jordan River. Taking upon himself our sinful state, made sin for our sake, trading places with us. He would go from the river into the desert to experience temptation. He would return and be known as a sinner by the self-righteous. He ate and drank in the company of sinners. At last, he was executed, hanged on a tree, like a sinner.

           The novelist Dostoevsky tells of an argument between an atheist and a believer about the existence of God.  The atheist’s position was based on the suffering of innocent children, which made him say to God, “I most respectfully return to you my entrance ticket to your heaven.” He recalled the incident of a Russian general who had a child killed for hurting the paw of a prized hunting-dog. You can imagine the method. The story left the believer stammering for a reply to the atheist’s challenge. All he could do by way of response was point to someone “who gave His innocent blood for all and everything.” That one, of course, is Jesus Christ.

          Jesus Christ, who came not by water alone, but by water and blood (II). Both the water of the Jordan and the blood of the cross witness to God’s solidarity with those who suffer--especially those who suffer innocently, because of others’ sins. Whether at the hands of self-serving despots consumed by greed who stoke hatred in their deluded followers, or at the hands of poverty, disease and racism, or at the hands of governments who embolden violence between nations or even among their own citizens — including those who were once victims themselves and on whom the irony seems lost.  In all such cases, God suffers with us, and in us, and yes, from us. This is the faith which conquers the world, with all its pride, injustice, and crime. For who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (II) And whose blood gives meaning to all our suffering.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are IGod’s] ways above [our] ways, and [God’s] thoughts above Jour] thoughts (I). To God be the glory, in Christ Jesus our Lord, forever and ever. Amen.



In prayer let us call on God who draws near to us in Christ, the Beloved One in whom God’s Spirit rests.

That all who are baptized into the everlasting covenant may conquer the world by faith and transform it by love.

That nations who do not yet know God's steadfast love may be moved by the witness of believers to seek and find the Lord.

That those estranged from God and from the community may forsake their ways and return to the God of mercy who abundantly pardons.

That those unsatisfied by material gain, who thirst for fulfillment, may come to drink freely the wine of God's Kingdom and the milk of God's wisdom.

That God's word, descending on us like winter snow and rain, may accomplish its purpose among us and yield a harvest of obedient faith and generous love.

That the political divisions in this country that have unleashed forces of hatred and violence, at times while invoking the name of Jesus, might be healed and overcome by adherence to the authentic Gospel of Christ.    

That all the departed who believe in Jesus as the Christ may share fully in the victory by which Christ conquers death.

God of salvation,  in the river Jordan you bathed your Son Jesus in glory and revealed him as your obedient servant.  In spirit and in power rend the heavens and come down to us. Strengthen us to acknowledge your Christ, that we who are reborn in his likeness may walk with him the path of obedience. Grant this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.



The One who clothes himself with light as with a robe deigned for our sakes to become as we are.

Today he is clothed in the streams of the Jordan, even though he has no need to be purified.

He refashions us through the cleansing that he receives.

What a marvelous wonder! He creates anew, without fire, and refashions without tearing apart.

He grants salvation to those enlightened in him. Christ our God, the Savior of our souls.



Closing Hymn


You have shone forth from the Virgin,

O Christ, Sun of Justice.

A star found you, whom nothing can contain,

manifest in a cave.

It led the Magi to adore you.

With them, we worship You:

O Giver of life, glory to you!

The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed;

The Lord has robed himself with might;

He has girded himself with power.

The world you made firm, not to be moved;

Your throne has stood firm from of old.

From all eternity, O Lord, you are.

The waters have lifted up, O Lord.

The waters have lifted up their voice;

The waters have lifted up their thunder. 

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit.

Now and ever and forever.  Amen.

You have shone forth from the Virgin…