Brian’s Reflection: Sunday, January 8, 2012
[ Epiphany I – Feast of the Baptism of Christ ]
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 3:13-17; for the 1st Sunday of Epiphany,
Revised Common Lectionary, Year B
[ The full texts can be found at: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Epiphany/AEpi1_RCL.html ]
I always wonder ….. with little hope of “fully knowing”! ….. why the shapers of the Gospel (in this case “Matthew”) have John baptizing Jesus, and Jesus requesting it. John baptizes as a preparation for something else to come ….. the baptism of the Spirit. Perhaps this is the reason?: It is not possible to become a Daughter or a Son of God if we have not done the preparation, have not “prepared a place for God to come and dwell”? Personally, I think so. The message seems to be that we can’t become fully human, i.e., infused with “God” ….. which means become fully human ….. unless we have “let every heart prepare Him room”. I “get” this. Because I know how often my heart and mind and spirit and body are not ready to BE a fully human person, as defined by the standard of Jesus. Not that this means that we have to have reached some level of “perfection”; but we do have to be open to growth.
If we are Ready (which is what I think is meant by the image of Jesus coming to John at the Jordan) , the Dove can descend. In the story, Jesus is Ready. He comes to John, the prophet of His Coming, humbly. So, here Jesus is the figure of each one of us who is longing to be made fully human, a person who has looked inside and “cleansed the heart” of things that reject this transformation. As a priest, officiating at baptisms, I have often asked myself, “What are we doing here?”. The imagery is stark; it is put in terms of Death and Life: We “die with Christ, in order that we might live with Him”. In other words, we are ready to enter into something New.
Christian Life IS something New! Oh, it doesn’t mean that we will suddenly become a completely loving, compassionate, just, merciful person! But it does mean that we have heard the call to that Path ….. and that we sense a longing and desire to go that Way. Baptism is not a” perfecting”; it is a commitment of the will towards a destiny ….. and there will be many successes and failures, for that is the human way. And we will depend on many things to keep us on the Path: the Community, the Worship, the Sacraments, the Practice of Love.
At Baptism (and this is a ritual practiced in many religions), the “old way” of selfishness is “drowned”. We rise from the waters hearing a Voice which says, “You are my Daughter, my Son; I am so pleased with you!” In other words, there is great joy for Life when we make the choice to strive to be like “God”: full of Love, Generosity, Sympathy, Compassion, Caring, Unity. I chose to be a Follower of Jesus because He is a living spirit of such a Calling.
It does not matter what inner path you follow in Life. Whether we know it or not, we all are on a Path. What matters is that we hear that Love is the way, and are embraced by something that guides us. That is why Friends are so important ….. and why Jesus insisted that His disciples were, foremost, to be called His friends.
Know this day that YOU are God’s Friends, God’s Daughters and Sons.