Sunday, January 10, 2016

The First Sunday after the Epiphany - the Baptism of our Lord Jesus

Dear Fathers , Friends in Christ, 

As we now approach the end of the Christmas season, I want us to remember the Baptism of our Lord. 

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,

3:16 John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

When we think about a baptism, then, in front of our eyes there is a baby. Traditionally all of us were baptized as babies.Then we were not aware of our Catholic Faith. Saint Augustine, one of the great Church Fathers said:" When you are born, you are not a Christian, it is something that you become."
When we were confirmed by the Bishop , say at the age of twelve, did we become Catholic Christians then "? From a different authority, a Professor in Religious Studies the opinion is recorded , that before you turn twenty , it is quite difficult to really believe.

Offcourse there is a child-like faith. It is more less the same as puppy love. At what age do we become experienced in relationships? 
To have a strong Catholic Faith is a matter of having a relationship. A relationship with our God and other people. Whilst there is a place 
for Holy Baptism and Confirmation we have the chance as grown ups to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. Then we are conscious of our promise , 
then we are fully committed to our Catholic Faith and with full responsibility  as baptized Catholic Christians  we can confess our Faith in public. 
Do you do this ? Or do we treat this one of the fringes  of the Eastervigil and feel that it does not really matter ?

So, when we hear the word " baptism" we think of a baby, but also of the Priest, who pours a little bit of water over the child's head. Just a little, that fits in the palm of the Priest's hand. But the Holy Baptism of Jesus, as a grown man, by Saint John the Baptist was different. That was indeed a sign of repentance. What does repentance mean? It means then you turn yourself around to follow a new road. The Baptism  is to be reborn again to a new life. 
Jesus was immersed in the river Jordan. He descended. And to rise from the water again. From down in the depth to the Resurrection. 
And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

Saint Luke confesses that this Jesus from Nazareth resembles God exactly. Just the same way every human being has been created: " according to God's image and resemblance."But this Jesus is really the split image of God. The beloved Son. Completely filled with God's spirit. Filled with love that is Holy. Filled with love ,which brings salvation. Like a pigeon or dove, sometimes flies hundreds of kilometres to return to the house of his master, God allows the Holy Spirit to descend upon Jesus to have a home in Him, and to be carried with Him in love. In many Churches this Holy Baptism of Jesus is depicted in stain glass windows. 

The reality of a repented life,  of being born again is not always so loveable. The human life can sometimes be so hard and raw.  

Jesus descended into the depths of the water. Symbolically it is going to the level of those people, who are brokenhearted. Jesus 
went to the poor, the sick, the sinners , and those unclean. He went to people who had back luck or lacked any importance in this life. 
Jesus showed solidarity with them. Jesus went so far , that he was counted under the evil people and criminals. They were hanging on crosses on his left and on his right at Golgotha. We can never say that Jesus did not care. No, He was really immersed in terrible suffering and experienced utter loneliness. 
And in this way He resembled God , His Father, Who is love.  This well beloved son was glorified by God , Who resurrected Him from the dead. 

If we as Catholic Christians take our baptismal promises seriously, then it is our turn to get involved with the lowly. Also to be immersed from time to time in human suffering. This relate to others and ourselves.  Dont stay away and keep a safe distance. But really experience it. To suffer  and to see death and failure not as the end of the road. To be filled with the Holy Spirit , to rise from the depth and to be reborn. 

In my role as a Priest I often visit hospitals and the sick. I see a nurse, who , arm in arm walks with a patient, who suffers from dementure. 
And I know that the nurse concerned has compassion, which rises about technical medical help and creates a surrounding of caring love. 
I have also seen another nurse treat a mentally handicapped this way. With angelic patience. I think of men and women, who are involved in pallative care. How they assist the dying .

Fortunately there are people, who walk in the Spirit and draw you across suffering and death to a very surprising new life. 
Our Baptism and renewal of it is the Sacrament , the Holy sign of our participation in the descend of Jesus out of love and His Glorification as the well beloved Son of God. Ware brothers and sisters of this man Jesus. 


Father Ed Bakker, 
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province 
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne 
Bendigo Australia. 


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