January 13, 2013
Marcellino D’Ambrosio, PH.D.
The Baptism of The Lord
The Jews were absolutely unique in the Ancient world. Not only did their religion forbid them to worship gods other than the Lord, but their prophets actually taught that the gods of the nations were mere figments of the imagination. They did not exist at all.
This seemed odd to the Greeks and Romans who not only had gods of their own, but gladly added others to their pantheon as they made their acquaintance through commerce and conquest. The exclusivist mentality of the Jews struck them as very narrow-minded indeed.
But devout Jews in the time of Jesus could care less. “Monotheism” was their distinctive hallmark and was ingrained in them from cradle to grave. They recited several times a day the verses of Deut 6:4-6 “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”
So it should come as no surprise that the notion of Jesus as “Son of God” was a bit hard to take. John’s Gospel tells us this claim to divine son-ship was one of the main reasons for Jesus’ crucifixion. Hundreds of years later, Constantine had to call the first Ecumenical Council to reaffirm that Jesus was God, equal in glory and Majesty to the Father, in the face of heretical protests. Fifty years later yet another Council was called to definitively affirm the same thing about the Holy Spirit.
To this day, people from Da Vinci Code fans to Jehovah’s Witnesses ridicule the doctrine of the Trinity, alleging it was invented by Constantine.
But a close reading of the Scriptures shows that the Trinity was revealed when Jesus met his cousin in the wilderness. While John baptizes his superior, the voice of the Father resounds over the waters: “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests.” At that very moment, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove. Here, for a brief instant, we glimpse the mystery of One God in three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. This momentary appearance of Jesus as the Son of the Father, anointed with the Spirit, is an Epiphany. In fact, in the Christian East, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the Epiphany are one in the same.
It is no accident that this revelation of the Trinity happened at the moment of Christ’s baptism. For Christian baptism, here instituted by Christ, is essentially different than the baptism of John. The Baptist preached cleansing from past sins and a change of lifestyle. Christian baptism certainly involves this, but accomplishes much more. It joins us to Jesus, as Savior and Lord, and connects us with the power of his death and resurrection. But since in baptism we become one with Jesus, members of his body, all that is His becomes ours. His Father now becomes our Father, and His Holy Spirit now takes up residence within us. Baptism does not just wash away our sins so that we can escape the fires of hell. No, it establishes an intimate relationship between us and the three persons of the Trinity. God is no longer a stern monarch, but our loving Father. God the Son calls us no longer servants but friends. God the Spirit becomes the power within us to make us new people and bring us to the fullness of joy.
The fact that baptism takes place through water is no accident either. Water cleanses, true. But it is also the symbol of birth. Are we not carried in water for nine months in our mothers’ wombs? In baptism, we emerge from the waters of the Church’s womb to take up a new kind of life, a holy adventure that opens out into eternity!
That’s why when Jesus commands the apostles to baptize in Matthew 28:19 he commands them to do so not just in his own name, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And every time we make the sign of the cross, first impressed into our foreheads at our baptism, we recall not only this command, but that wonderful Epiphany when the Trinity was first manifested at the banks of the Jordan.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
January 13, 2013
Baptism of the Lord: Continuing The Mission
We end the Christmas Season and begin the Season of Ordinary Time with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist.
Why was Jesus baptized by John? Certainly, He was not a sinner who needed to repent like so many of the others whom John baptized. The Fourth Eucharistic Prayer reminds us that Jesus shared our human nature in all things but sin. John himself said that Jesus should be baptizing him, not he baptizing Jesus. So, why did Jesus go into the River Jordan and let John baptize him?
Baptism of the Lord
The first verses of today’s gospel make it clear that the baptism of John is only a preparation for the coming of Jesus. His baptism is in water only, whereas the baptism that Jesus offers is also “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). This is a reference no doubt to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which is fully described in Luke’s other book, the Acts of the Apostles (see chapter 2).
Why Were the Heavens Opened to Jesus at His Baptism?
Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, Luke 3:15-16,21-22
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
By baptism, men are made to be true sons of God, washed from original (and any actual) sin, infused with the virtues and gifts, built into a true temple of the Holy Trinity, and joined to the mystical Body of Christ which is the Church
Why Was Jesus Baptized?
This Sunday, the Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ.
It’s an event that is recorded in all four gospels, so we know it’s important.
But there’s a question that has puzzled Christians all down through the ages.
It even puzzled John the Baptist, who performed the baptism.
Why was Jesus baptized?
The Road Not Taken…. A Path to Sainthood
I’m pretty sure that most kids, when asked, would not claim to want to be a saint when they grow up. They may choose a police officer, a doctor, a nurse, a vet, a teacher, a chef- of course- but a saint? No. Likewise, most adults when asked if they are “saint material” would probably tell you that they could never be a saint. After all, aren’t saints perfect? Aren’t they only priests and nuns? They weren’t sinful, never made the wrong decisions, and always put God first in everything they did, right?
Why Does My Prayers Seemingly Go Unanswered?
It is a question that many Christians ponder–“Why is God not answering my prayers?“
Firstly it is important to understand that our own will and desires are often quite different than God’s will for us. While here on earth we cannot fully see or understand God’s will, and so it is that we can often pray for something that is contrary to what God wills for us.
A Source-text for Serenity
I saw a YouTube video today by a fellow Catholic who was quite concerned and animated over what he describes as the desperate condition of the Church. It is true that there is much to be sober about in these troubled times, and we have discussed them quite thoroughly here. There are current and necessary struggles in which we are engaged, especially in seeking to re-evangelize our increasingly disordered culture.
But in all this we cannot afford to lose our serenity. Unsettled warriors are ultimately ineffectual for we cannot bring peace to others unless we first have it ourselves.
Knute Rockne & The Eucharist
After the college football national championship game, faith filled fans of Notre Dame Football need something positive on which to dwell, so how about a miraculous story surrounding Knute Rockne? Many readers may be aware of legendary Notre Dame Football Coach Knute Rockne’s winning prowess on the football field. However, he was also a budding scientist and man of faith. Before becoming a coach, then promising student Knute Rockne worked with famed Notre Dame Priest and scientist Father Julius Nieuwland who helped invent synthetic rubber and is the only priest in the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
Faith has to Become Flesh
In yesterday’s post we pondered the insistence of the Johannine scriptures on the fact that Christ Jesus came in the flesh, was incarnate. To the deny the incarnation is a serious heresy that not only misunderstands Jesus, but misunderstands the nature of the faith as well. For if Jesus came in the flesh, if the Word become flesh, then so also must our faith be fleshly. We cannot reduce it to mere ideas. Those ideas, and all doctrine must bear real fruit in our lives that extends to the created and material word, to actual deeds in space and time. Our faith has to become flesh.
To Know Christ Jesus – The Early Years
I recently finished a book called “To Know Christ Jesus” by theologian Frank Sheed. Is there a better way to end the old year and start the new than getting to know Christ Jesus better? The book goes through the entire life of Jesus using all of the gospels in a chronological kind of way and this author has tendency to mention what is obvious, and yet not so obvious; you’ll see what I mean. It’s like someone giving you a tour of the life of Jesus, pointing-out things along the way that you did not notice or consider on other expeditions.
The Manifestation of God
There are moments in time when some things about our Faith seem so clear, one wonders how doubt ever crept into any corners of our world. I found that to be particularly clear with regard to some thoughts on our Lord’s coming to the Earth, which we have been celebrating over these past few weeks. This celebration rightly supersedes actions like blogging, or at least it dilutes such blogging down, even for the more tenacious writers among us. At any rate, I have come up for air to offer some thoughts about some recent reading and meditations. Hopefully they are a blessing to some, forgive me if this is not the case.
Jesus and Uncle Don
I had this uncle–my Dad’s brother who everybody loved. Uncle Don was a terrific guy. He had a heart of gold. He was the sort of uncle who gave you a nickname and a big hug. He seemed to like everybody. He was a pastor for a while, but then dropped out because the religious people were such a pain. He spent the rest of his working life teaching kids with special needs. Uncle Don was kind, wise, loving and affirming. He passed away a few years ago, and he’s much missed.
The Adoration of the Magi Proves the Divinity of Christ (St Augustine)
Church history is plagued by the recurring heresy which denies that Christ is fully God. The most insidious attempt to push this false theology on the Church occurred in the fourth century. The heresiarch Arius galvanized a majority of influential clergy in laity as the so-called nouvelle théologie of budding Christendom. Arius wrongly taught that the Son of God was not eternal with the Father and that the Son of God was therefore created. This entailed that the Son of God does not share the same divine substance as God the Father. As you know, the Catholic Church condemned these errors at the Council of Nicea (325) and the First Council of Constantinople (381).
Well Said: In Becoming Holy We Transform History
From Take Five: Meditations with Pope Benedict XVI, a little book that I am finding to be one of my best devotional reading experiences.
Our first duty, therefore, precisely in order to heal this world, is to be holy, configured to God; in this way we emanate a healing and transforming power that also acts on others, on history. … In this regard, it is useful to reflect that the Twelve Apostles were not perfect men, chosen for their moral and religious irreproachability. They were indeed believers, full of enthusiasm and zeal but at the same time marked by their human limitations, which were sometimes even serious. Therefore Jesus did not call them because they were already holy, complete, perfect, but so that they might become so, so that they might thereby also transform history, as it is for us, as it is for all Christians. — Homily at Port of Brindisi, Italy (June 15, 2008)
The desert father Abba Poemen said, “These three things are the most helpful of all: fear of the Lord; prayer; and doing good to one’s neighbor.”
Fear of the Lord is a largely unappreciated gift of the Spirit that, according to Scripture, is the beginning of wisdom. It’s my experience that in preaching and teaching there’s a general tendency to evade all of the dangerous dimensions of faith that threaten our culture’s “I’m okay, you’r okay” ethos, for fear that religion might seem in some way or other to be “negative.”
Review: Catholicism Pure and Simple by Fr. Dwight Longenecker
If a good person decides to fight against evil he will always be at a disadvantage. …
The evil person will naturally use every devious and nasty trick he can think of. That’s why he’s bad: he is a liar, a cheat, a murderer and a thoroughgoing scoundrel.
However, the good person cannot use the same evil tricks. So the evil one will lie and scheme. He will punch below the belt and throw salt in the good guy’s eyes. But the really good person is not allowed to lower himself to dirty tricks. Jesus taught us this principle. When our enemy slaps us we are told to turn the other cheek. When our enemy takes our coat we are to offer him our shirt as well.
The Hand of God
Save for those who ski or take vacations in the south, January and February are not the most charming months and they did not exist at all on the oldest Roman calendar, which had only ten months. Winter was a temporal vacuum and the less said about it the better. Only in the eighth century before Christ were they named as months. Eventually, January 1 marked the new year. In the Middle Ages, although the new year began on either the Annunciation or nine months later on Christmas, the old twelve month calendar obtained and January 1 became the official new year’s day again in the 16th century. Even so, right down to the present, judicial and fiscal calendars often relate to March 25.
The Devil’s Secret Silence
I recently engaged in correspondence with a young man who indicated that he had committed horrific sins and could not even bring himself to anonymously confess to a priest. Though I cannot reveal more about the situation, his sins would cause most to recoil and I believe he is now in prison for one particularly horrific crime. In corresponding with him it is not hard to imagine that his sins had begun in much less consequential form as a young man but grew to horrific proportion. Somewhere along the line he fell into the trap of keeping his inner struggles with sin and temptation a secret.
It’s the forgotten sacrament. Three-quarters of U.S. Catholics either never go or go less than once a year. Many aren’t even sure what to call it: Reconciliation? Penance? Confession?
Once upon a time, people availed themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as much as they did the Eucharist. It was offered frequently, and whole families waited in line to enter the confessional and tell the priest their litany of sins. I remember people standing in line as Mass began, waiting to enter the confessional and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”