Saturday, January 06, 2018

Baptism of Our Lord - A, B or C

WATER: This is the main symbol of baptism. Water represents washing clean and re-birth and renewal. Water is a perfect symbol, it contains so many meanings: It is an absolutely essential element of life……    

It contains so many meanings within itself………  Health and life, danger and threat (as we have seen by recent news….  the force and danger of flood waters…. the power and unexpected force of the frozen glaciers of New Zealand…. where two people recently met with terrible tragedy…..)….. water represents both enormous power and also soothing, renewing, gentleness, …..a washing and restoring.

Water and baptism….. is a wonderful way of showing that by following Jesus we want to ‘immerse” or “plunge” ourselves into Jesus’ way of life. Baptism is a word that literally means “Plunge” and we believe that Baptism is not just a sign of following Jesus, Baptism connects us to Jesus and makes us one with his life and with the life of all other believers in Jesus.

In baptism, we become a beloved and cherished child of God…….   children of the same Father in heaven… who is so generous, so lavish in love and praise.,… that the gospel today tells us, that the Father, upon Jesus rising from the waters of John’s baptism….   literally tears the heavens apart and pours down the most wonderful praise and confidence and blessing upon his beloved son…

as one commentator says….
We are told that God rends the heavens to lavish praise on his son— a son who, up to that point, had yet to accomplish much of anything.  It must have been indescribably affirming and motivating for Jesus as he was about to begin his most challenging and self-emptying ministry. Although Jesus is God made human, he was also fully human…. and in need of encouragement and affirmation and strength from his beloved father… who was in heaven… and who happened to be the father of all things…..   Jesus was now absolutely assured and commissioned in the loved and confidence of his heavenly father….that God the father was completely pleased with him. (Patrice J. Tuohy)

It is a timely reminder, that it is so important, so human and so affirming to praise one another…….  we live in a culture where it seems easier to voice criticisms…. and it seems that for some, if they are not unhappy with anything it is not so much praise that follows…. but silence…….  so we live in a world where there is either criticism or begrudging silence…….  or else… then we get the other extreme where people compliment others with empty and insincere words…….. that don’t connect with the reality of what is happening… and so do very little good…..       others feel that they shouldn’t praise others for fear that it might give the other a ‘big head’ …….  or that the praise may be taken as mere flattery……….  having said that….. there is no substitute for sincere, heartful and constructive affirmation, encouragement and praise…… which is a form of gratefulness in words…. naming that which we are grateful for,…..,,, 

Praise is so important……..  Good managers know this as do teachers, coaches, counsellors, volunteer coordinators, and fundraisers—anyone who is trying to get someone to take the next step, stretch themselves, and constantly strive to reach a higher level of commitment or performance.

For people who live without affirmation and who live with constant criticism…. they get the crippling message that everything they do is not good enough….. nothing they do will really satisfy or meet with approval……   for a person who gets false praise…. they either feel that the words are meaningless….. or else rely on compliments that don’t really give them a good indicator of who they are and what they are doing and how it is affecting others for the better……..    and then there are those who get good, positive feedback and affirmation…..   even when setbacks and the occasional mistake or failure come their way, they are not defeated, because they believe in their value and the strength of their own worth…..  and persevere through the struggles and beyond….

I just want to mention the curious second reading from the first letter of St John. He mentions the rather obscure reference to Jesus being shown to be the Messiah not only by the water but also by the blood. This is a little strange… but what it seems to mean is….  St John was writing this letter at the time when a heresy was taking hold in the church communities… some were saying that Jesus was really just an ordinary human and at his baptism, he was adopted by the Father and the spirit fell upon him… he lived as God’s son and then on the cross… the divine spirit left and the mere human remained…. so God did not really suffer or die…. it was just the human who carried the divine spirit in him for a time….  but no… this is a heresy.. and is not the fullness of our Christian faith… St John reminds us that Jesus suffered and died… and shed real blood upon the cross… so that the true sign that Jesus was the real messiah and the beloved son of God…. Jesus was both truly God and truly human was that he gave his last drop of blood for us… and truly suffered and even gave his life for us…  so not only his baptism in the waters of the river Jordan… shows us his identity… but also his suffering and death….   Baptism and the cross are essential and un-divided elements of the perfect messiah… the two cannot be separated….. 

FR. PAUL W. KELLY. Reflection on Baptism 

2009 – A BOOK OF GRACE-FILLED DAYS. BY Alice Camille


PATRICE J. TUOHY,, 2008, TrueQuest Communications, LLC.

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