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Friday, 10 January 2014

Reflection on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord: 12th Jan. 2014

Reflection on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord: 12th Jan. 2014
Theme: Jesus Baptized
Author: Sylvester O’Flynn
Righteousness is not a very happy word. It can suggest the hypocritical, better -than-thou attitude of the self-righteous.
Or it is a terrifying word when it conjures up the picture of a very strict God who is angry with us when we break his law. This righteous God would never let his face smile on us or let us go out to play on Sunday.

When religion is dominated by the concept of a strict, exacting God it drives people to insane fanaticism, morbid depression or gnawing self-hatred. God is then feared but not loved: and religion is very correct but also very cold.

The good news is that Jesus did not wait on the bank of the Jordan until the sinners were perfectly washed. He went into the river, anxious to be at one with them. He fully entered the muddy waters of human existence. He is true to his name, Jesus: savior of the sinner: not a messiah sent to gather the perfect people into an elite club.

Then occurred the extraordinary revelations from heaven. The cry of the prophet was answered as God tore the heavens open and the Spirit descended upon Jesus.

Matthew knows that this day was important not only for Jesus but for all of us. Where Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus heard the words from heaven, Matthew writes as if all are to hear it said: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’ What is said of Jesus that day is to be echoed in every Christian baptism.

Matthew is fond of a first and last trick in writing (what the scholars call inclusion). Something he wants to stress is mentioned at the start and end of a story or episode. So it is with baptism. The first appearance of the adult Jesus is on the day of his baptism: and at his last appearance, on the mountain in Galilee, he tells his disciples to baptize all nations ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Matt 28:19)

The first is the model of the last. The baptism of Jesus is seen as the model of Christian baptism. The revelation of God at the baptism of Jesus enlightens us about the effects of Christian baptism. It establishes a person on a new level of relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The baptized person enters the family of God as a beloved child of the Father, now entitled to pray ‘Abba, Father!’ Under the waters of baptism we are embraced in the cleansing and healing love of the Son, who entered the rivers of human life to be one with us.

And the Spirit of God descends upon the baptized soul, igniting the first spark of God’s fire, which we are asked to fan into a consuming passion of love.

The way to righteousness, then, is not in some exacting programme of perfection in which we prove our worthiness. No, righteousness is a gift that God wants to give us.

All we have to do is to let God be God: and to be aware of
- the Father’s love for us as his beloved children:
- the Son’s association with us in the waters of human life:
- the Spirit’s desire to set our hearts aflame with the fires of divine love.

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