Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord

The Gospel for today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord has had my mind racing all morning:

"A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’" (Luke 3:15-16,21-22) 

Truthfully, what above all has me going is the distinction St. John the Baptist makes there between his baptism, with water unto repentance, and baptism into Jesus, God's Chosen One, which is a Baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. John himself, then, says clearly that there is no comparison between the two. Use words for the role of Jesus in the life of the baptized like primacy, like centrality, like inexorable, like absolute. However you turn the phrase, just remember that John discounted his own striking call to repentance and the baptizing he had done in the Jordan to make way for the author of Baptism, God's only Son: oportet Illum crescere! He must increase and I must decrease!

Epiphany/Manifestation: the adoration of the Magi, the wedding feast at Cana, the Baptism in the Jordan, and relevant though perhaps to a lesser extent, the multiplication of loaves and fishes, the walking on the waters and the calming of the sea! OPORTET ILLUM CRESCERE! It is all far from the point when the crowds or even the chosen few are not living in expectancy of Jesus alone, with their hearts set on His appearance, on the manifestation of the Messiah, as an event with real and great consequences for those who seek. 

Our environment is so poisoned by various relativizing tendencies born of a certain indifference, from cold or hardened hearts, that we get jumpy when praise to the Infant King, when homage to Christ, the Universal King and Eternal High Priest ring through, having caught our dullness off guard.

Referring to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I see there are a few alarms being sounded by bloggers that too much mercy talk might not work to the advantage of the other forgiving waters at the Church's disposal, namely the tears of penance shed within the context of a good sacramental Confession. Certainly, mercy stands over and against judgment, but at least for today, for the Feast of the Baptism, I'd like people, on the word of John the Baptist, to turn to the One of whom he said, that He, Jesus, "... is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals".  We are not our own arbiters and far less than the Baptist can we claim to call the shots.


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