An atheist said, “If Christians are the light of the world,
somebody has forgotten to turn the switch on.” “Since
1960, there has been a 560% increase in violent crimes,
more than a 400% increase in illegitimate births, a
quadrupling of divorce rates, tripling of children in single-
parent homes.” The speaker was William F Buckley, Jr.
The world, according to him, does seem to be going to hell in a hand-basket. But was the world of Jesus really that different when He was baptized by John in the Jordan? Listen to John as he answers that question in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Turn away from your sins. You snakes. Don’t collect more than is legal. Don’t take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely.” The world of Jesus’ time seems to resemble our own. John the Baptizer could very easily recycle his Jordan sermons to speak to our problems. Listening to him, contemporary preachers might be tempted to whisper, “I could use John’s material. He describes our times.” The crucial question is how the Christ responded to the dry rot all about Himself.
The answer is to be found in the cleansing waters of the Jordan and in today’s feast. It is important to note that all four Gospel writers refer to the baptism of Jesus. So, in their minds, the baptism is e-mailing an important message. It is our job to discover what that message is. The baptism was important to Him. He uses this dramatic event to commence His public life and work. If one could say Jesus had an inauguration, this was it. The silent Jesus waded out to the spot where John stood in the Jordan river. He asked for baptism. John went into immediate shock. He intuitively knew that this baptism was not designed for the Man from Nazareth. He waved Him off. He had no desire to hold a fully grown tiger by the tail. Yet, Jesus insisted and gave him no choice. John knew who it was standing in the cold rushing water before him. The reluctant John baptized Him, but he must have sensed the Saviour had a method in His apparent madness. He did and we find the answer in art, courtesy of Henri Daniel-Rops.
Artists from day one have wrestled with the Master’s baptism. You will find drawings in the catacombs, in early sculptures, in books on liturgy, in mosaics, and in stained glass. Curiously though, the artists have invariably treated the subject in a minimalist style. One finds neither embroidery nor embellishment. What you see is what you get.
Even the untutored eye will find this minimalism in the stained glass window at the Chartres cathedral outside Paris. It is the case even more so in a famous medieval psalter by the Dane, Ingeborg. His work portrays Christian subjects in rich and opulent colors with one exception. Yes, Jesus’ baptism! But why?
Jesus is telling us that we must first direct our attention to our own personal lives with little ceremony and less pomp. We must cleanse ourselves with rough brown laundry soap in clean waters as He did. Then and only then can we properly address ourselves to the many human problems referred to by Mr Buckley. Every reformation must first begin in one’s own home and with oneself. It must be done as simply and quickly as possible. It was St Paul who told us that “He was like unto us in all things except sin.” And yet that sinless
Christ took it upon Himself to enter the waters and wash Himself before He set out to reform anyone else. Can anyone of us do less?
The Teacher is a doer, not a talker. He wants action, not pious platitudes or vague resolutions. The Associated Press breathlessly reported that a British astronomer speculated that the Christmas star was the “coming together of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces in 7 BC.” Perhaps and of course perhaps not. Yet might we not all agree that one can still see traces of that Christmas star in the night sky?
But this time it is illuminating not the creche but the confessional in your church. Why not step in there and first purge yourself of your sins? Then, like the renewed Christ, tackle the problems in your families, community, and the world. St Peter of Alcantara puts the case this way. “Truly matters are in a bad state. But if you and I begin to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made.” Remember the monk’s dictum. To show His love, Jesus died for us. To show our love, we must live for him.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
January 11, 2014
The Baptism of the Lord—January 12, 2014
|At the Nativity, we celebrated Jesus’ birth in flesh and blood. Today, we celebrate a second “birth” in the Spirit—our own.
Gospel (Read Mk 1:7-11)
We know from the Gospel accounts that John the Baptist raised many Messianic expectations when he preached a baptism of repentance at the Jordan River. Because of an Old Testament prophecy in the Book of Daniel, in which the angel Gabriel revealed a kind of “timetable” for the coming of the Messiah (see Dan 9), the people in Jesus’ day, knowing that the prophecy’s date had come due, were on high alert.
The Baptism of the Lord:A Call to Change the World
This is the last Sunday of the Christmas Season and the First Sunday of Ordinary time. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes Christmas and begins the meditation on the ministry of Jesus. There are four aspects of this feast: 1) the Lord humbles himself before John the Baptist, 2)the Lord is empowered by the Spirit to begin the mission of the Father, 3) the Lord accepts the mission to suffer and die for us and 4) the Lord expresses his solidarity with those looking to change the world.
Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1: 7-11
John the Baptist offered his disciples a water ritual which was essentially preparatory. It was a visible, public way of declaring one’s readiness for the coming of the Messiah. It said, in effect, that from now on no human preconditions would be laid down.
This represented a significant decision because we humans are very tempted to tell God how to do things.
When the Messiah does come, he will bring with him his own powerful baptismal rite. It too will include a water ritual but it will be far superior to the baptism of John because it will confer the Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit that was sent from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and which signaled the dawn of a new world.
Fearing the Silence
Why do we fear coming to God? Why does turning to God come only once we have no where else to turn in our trials? Rather than God being first, we turn instead to friends, family, spouses, culture, society, and only when other sources are exhausted do we turn to Christ in prayer. Obviously, these all could very well be God-given avenues of advice and comfort, but He wants us to bring all things to Him, especially in the moments we are most afraid to come to Him.
No, the Bible Isn’t the Fullness of Revelation. Jesus is.
In other words, the fullness of revelation isn’t the Bible or Tradition, but Jesus Christ. That’s the clear teaching of Scripture. For example, the Letter to the Hebrews begins (Heb. 1:1-3a):
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.
So we received portions of revelation before through the prophets. This certainly includes the Old Testament, but (at least from a Catholic perspective) wasn’t confined to written revelation. Rather, this revelation occurred in “many and various ways.” And now that partial revelation has come to its perfection, not in the New Testament, but in Jesus Christ Himself.
Stealing God’s Job
If you asked a typical Catholic, “Are you stealing God’s job?”, they would laugh out loud at such a ridiculous question and emphatically deny it. I know I did. Granted, the wording of this question is designed to shock. Yet the question is also meant to provoke self- examination. After someone asked me this question, I examined my life and was surprised at what I discovered. I realized like almost everyone else, I was trying to fulfill the role of God in my day-to-day life.
Why Are Catholics Afraid to Talk About Jesus?
Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, relates the following story about Sara, raised by a non-practicing Catholic mother and Jewish father in New York. At age 28, a powerful experience of God’s presence moved her to an intense exploration of Catholicism. After completing RCIA, she was received into the Church at Easter 2010. Sara shared part of her experience with Weddell:
Because Thomas Merton Gave Lectures Like This On Love
Of the theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Love, St. Paul writes that the greatest of these is Love. Our Lord also said so when He was being questioned by the scholar of the law and gave us the Two Greatest Commandments, both of which are based on love; the love of God and the love of neighbor.
It sounds pretty easy, and in theory it is. But in practice?
Well of the two, loving God is relatively easy, but loving our neighbors can be downright challenging. That is, for me anyway.
Overcoming Life’s Storms: A teaching from St. Paul to some storm-weary souls
In the midst of a great storm in Acts 27, St. Paul finds himself among desperate and defeated people. Though the storm is from nature, their problems are of their own doing and are rooted in a foolish refusal to listen to either natural warnings or God. All of this foolishness was described in yesterday’s post. Is there a way out of their situation? With God there is, but only with God and only by turning to Him in obedient faith. As long as we live, conversion is possible and things can change. Let’s consider how St. Paul, good pastor that he is, shepherds his doomed shipmates through the storm and to God, who can make a way out of no way. Again, the full and uninterrupted text of Acts 27 is here: Acts 27.
The Forgotten Corporeal Work of Mercy
My days were frantic preparing for a two-week trip to Turkey; before I left I had to have my home, kids, dog, and get everything at work prepared for my absence. I laid out extensive back-up plans at work since I am the only Perinatal Bereavement Nurse in my region.
I thought I was ready for anything until I received a call from Kara, a woman I didn’t know, but with whom I shared many mutual friends. “Tammy I know of the precious work you do and the loss you have suffered. I have prayed for you and I hoped that I would never need you, but I do”.
Sharing in Mary’s Heart for True Greatness
Writing about Mary as the Mother of God, St. Anselm wrote, “Wonder of wonders… There is nothing equal to Mary; only God is greater than Mary.” What is the basis for this greatness of the Mother of God?