Home » Gospel Reflections » January 12, 2020: The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Gospel reflection

January 12, 2020: The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Reading: Matthew 2:1. 13-15

(taken from “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language” by Eugene H. Peterson)

While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John called the “Baptizer” was preaching in the desert country of Judea … His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here”… Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected: “I am the one who needs to be baptized, not you!”

But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.


I got stuck on two contrasts in this gospel. I don’t know why. They must have something to teach me.

Two geographic places are presented: the Galilean hills and the desert country of Judea. Out of curiosity, I googled images of both places. The Galilean hills are green and lush. The desert country of Judea is dry and beige and uninviting. Jesus moves from a verdant place to an arid place. Contrast.

During his ministry, John makes it clear again and again that he is not “the One who is to come.” John knows his place in the scheme of things. John sees himself as just the messenger who is not even worthy to loosen Jesus’ sandal strap — much less baptize him. John identifies himself as unworthy. Jesus knows John as a brave, forthright, courageous man.  Blam! There goes John’s self-image. Contrast.


Help me out here. If you have any ideas about what the two contrasts may have to teach me or you or us, let me know. Leave your ideas as comments below.

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Kristy Fry on January 9, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    As I reflect, I find that the contrast in this passage could teach us that whether we are in a plush atmosphere or a desert like atmosphere, we can glorify God. Also, no matter who we are or how we view ourselves, God can use us for His work and to fulfill His plan.
    There are many contrast in the Bible. Good vs Evil. Truth vs Lies of the enemy.
    We are created for God’s glory and we are all different and come from different backgrounds. Our contrast with the world by being saved from sin and living with Christ within us is beautiful and It gives us peace. Yet for those who have yet to come to Him, the contrast is unsettled lives and always seeking to fill the void only God can fill.
    Just my thoughts. 💜

    • Norma Honiball. Woods 1979 on January 10, 2020 at 12:20 am

      Not just thoughts…. you and John the Baptist…. should acknowledge more the truths you speak and share… like prophets! Well said!

      • Sister Denise Wilkinson on January 14, 2020 at 10:14 am

        Thanks, Norma. Praying the Gospels is risky business when we choose to take the words seriously. SD

    • Sister Denise Wilkinson on January 14, 2020 at 10:04 am

      Thanks, Kristy! I especially appreciate your reminder that no matter what the differences between and among people, God can work through us whether we know it or not! Sister Denise

  2. Jeannie Smith,PA on January 9, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    As a young adult I moved (as you know, Denise) from lush and verdant Indiana to (botanically speaking) a rather harsh and sparse Southern California. Like other immigrants from temperate climates I thought this place “dry, beige and uninviting”. But I learned that this difficult environment creates the most beautiful and even spectacular tiny blooms – not often, only seasonally and even then occasional. People often think we have no seasons (“I would so miss Spring or Fall!” they say) – but if you pay attention, if you focus, if you learn a little, you can see seasons, even tell what month it is by what is going on with nature. And it is the struggle against the sparse resources that will inspire you; the strategies the natural flora and fauna have evolved to cope with difficult, even life-threatening circumstance. So – is this bit of your passage analogizing Jesus’ path to mindfulness, understanding and focus on the struggling people of his time: those facing desert circumstance, not the comfort of plenty?

    • Sister Denise Wilkinson on January 14, 2020 at 10:07 am

      As always, Jeannie, you help me pay attention, focus, learn a little. Living in lush and verdant Indiana, I can forget that apparent sparseness, barrenness is swarming with life! Love, Denise

  3. Norma Honiball on January 10, 2020 at 12:25 am

    Lovely comment…. loved the detail…

    Now a days though we have so many….
    Facing Faith and wellness, meaning, in the face of much comfort…..

  4. Mary Chlipala on January 10, 2020 at 9:54 am

    For me the contrast of John knowing his place in the scheme of things and Jesus knowing how important John is in the scheme of things. How often do we see this same scenario play out in our own lives. We aren’t the President of the club, but the club doors wouldn’t stay open if we didn’t show up everyday and give it our all. Be a “John the Baptist”, the voice in the wilderness.

    • Sister Denise Wilkinson on January 14, 2020 at 10:09 am

      Mary, great affirmation of the role most of us play – keeping the doors open, literally and figuratively. And like John the Baptizer, we can point the way. Sister Denise

  5. Kelly Schubert on January 13, 2020 at 11:29 pm

    As I reflect on this scripture I ponder that Christ sees us as we are created ; in the image of God. He calls us to be at his side ,calling others to join. He looks beyond the mask the world places on us ; wraps us in his shroud and sees us as clean , worthy spirits who can join his mission of gathering his lost sheep and professing the redemptive mystery of his life , death and resurrection. What a gift he gave to John in simply indicating there was work to be done and you are called.
    Perhaps in some way conveying ; I do not see what you see. I see you as you were created. Stop doubting! let’s do this!
    So often I feel unworthy to even speak , my knowledge not enough , my compassion fails me in a critical moment but yet I am called , as I believe we all are , to accept forgiveness and share the power of that understanding with others.
    That’s my take away reflection.

    • Sister Denise Wilkinson on January 14, 2020 at 10:12 am

      Kelly, I especially resonate with your words “What a gift we have in John in simply indicating there was work to be done and you are called.” Work to be done, indeed. And how wonderful that we are called to be community. SD

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