The Baptism of Jesus

If the word ‘righteousness’ doesn’t inspire good feelings within us, it is usually because we have experienced it modified by the word ‘self’. When so modified, it becomes a perversion of its very meaning. In essence, the word ‘righteousness’ refers to right relationship, firstly with God and, flowing from that, with other people. The self-righteous person actually has warped relationships with God and people. Pride deludes them into thinking they understand God and know how other people should live. Such righteousness does not led to love, but rather bludgeons like a blunt instrument.

In Jesus’ baptism by John we see the attitude on which true righteousness is built: humility. John was right, in a sense. He should not have been baptising Jesus. But Jesus was right, in a deeper sense. To achieve what he was to do, to reorder our relationships, both with God and others, he needed to show solidarity with us from the inside. In our flesh, he had to show humbly that he was God-with-us. In his baptism, he comes as a ‘sinner’ from the midst of the people. Later in the Gospel, he will be regarded, condemned and crucified as a ‘sinner’. He showed us this way of humility, so we would be prepared to humble ourselves before God and others.

When we are so humbled, we realize that we do not understand God. Indeed, far from it. We bow down in awe at the mystery of God. Even more, we are overwhelmed at the knowledge that we are the beloved of God, the ones in whom he delights. When we know this of ourselves, we recognise that it is true of others. God loves all, deeply, passionately, with delight. Sharing in the humility of Jesus then, we can hold ourselves on the edge of mystery, and there we are given the power to love as we have been loved.

Adapted from Renew International: PrayerTime Cycle A

Baptized by the Holy Spirit and Fire

In preparing adults to be received into the Catholic Church, we spend a great deal of time talking about the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Several years ago, one of our catechumens asked, “What, really, is the Holy Spirit’s fire?”

I answered, ” We have several expressions that might give us a hint: a coach works with a team to get them all fired up, your boss tries to light a fire under your staff to undertake a new project; someone intent on a mission has a fire in the belly.” “All these expressions,” I said, “point to commitment, intensity, energy, a drive toward a goal. Our baptism is meant to instill in us all this commitment, this energy as well.”

Our Gospel today tells us who we are and how we have been gifted. Our Baptism transforms us and confers on us a mission. By Baptism, we are The Body of Christ entrusted with cooperating with the Holy Spirit in making present God’s love by which the world is saved and renewed. We are missioned to a Gospel way of life.

Taking our Baptism seriously means that the ritual is just the beginning of a lifetime of living for God and for God’s people.