Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Is. 40: 1-5, 9-11
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God! I always hear Handel’s Messiah going through my head when this reading is proclaimed at Holy Mass. I also think of Advent when Isaiah is the favored prophet foreseeing the coming of the Kingdom. Today marks the end of the Christmas Season and is also the First Sunday of Ordinary Time. We are at a liturgical crossroads, when we look back on our celebration of the Incarnation and look forward to carrying that mystery into our everyday life which inevitably leads us on the way of the Cross to Calvary and then on to the Resurrection.
The last verse of the reading from Isaiah I find especially touching: Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care. The figure of the lamb links all the liturgical seasons. John the Baptist points to the Lamb of God in Advent, shepherds lead their lambs to every Christmas Crèche, the Paschal Lamb is sacrificed on Good Friday, and the Risen Lord commissions Peter to tend His sheep and lambs by the Sea of Galilee.
Throughout the year, all of us erring lambs need the rod and the staff of the Good Shepherd, to not only comfort us, but to keep us in line. Here is a poem written from the lamb’s perspective to jump us into Ordinary Time:
I frolic about in my fleecy folly,
Nibbling fields that are not so holy.
Hearing your shepherd’s voice I flee
Lest you take away from me
My independent wandering.
I wonder what moves these hooves of mine
To skip whatever is divine,
Preferring most the muddy earth
Of land that is of little worth
Except for aimless squandering.
Yet when you catch me in your arms,
Quieting my false alarms,
You are then my one desire.
So how is it I choose the brier
Over your encountering?
You must know what makes me stray!
Will I rest with the ninety-nine someday?
Or do you prefer a greater joy,
And being kept in good employ,
Tender of the blundering!