Beloved of God

Many people often ask why Jesus sought baptism from John the Baptist. After all, Jesus is the sinless Son of God, and baptism is the sacrament whereby original sin and all past sins of one’s life are washed away. Why, then, does Jesus need to be baptized? The most frequent response from apologists is that Jesus needed to set an example and institute the sacrament for our benefit, and while there may be some truth to that statement, the response overlooks the deeper reality behind the encounter between John the Baptist and Jesus in the river Jordan.

St. Augustine defines a sacrament as a visible sign of an invisible reality. This definition enables the fathers of the Church to see Jesus as the sacrament of God, the visible manifestation of the invisible God. This definition of sacrament also enables the Second Vatican Council to declare the Church as a sacrament of God, the continuing presence of Jesus in the world that makes present to us the invisible God in our sacramental celebrations.

The definition of Augustine is important, for it corrects a mistaken notion that saw the sacraments as magic tricks at the hands of the ordained priest. Instead, sacramental celebrations make visible in a celebratory way what is already real in our souls. An example from our own lived experience makes this reality known. When we celebrate the sacrament of marriage in the Church we are not creating the love for the couple presenting themselves to the Church to ratify their union. The couple is already in love, and the sacramental celebration is a visible expression of the reality that already exists within the hearts of the couple.

Baptism, then, celebrates our initial union with God and the forgiveness he has brought to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This reality is expressed more concretely in adult baptism, where the person to be baptized has experienced within himself or herself a profound encounter with the risen Jesus and the offer of forgiveness of sins he brings. Baptism brings that inner reality visibly to the Christian community. As physical, bodily beings we necessarily need to express to others in a bodily, visible way what we experience in the inner recesses of our spirit and soul. To express this l sacramentally indicates our union with the visible Church present in the assembly and the ordained priest or deacon.

In submitting to baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, Jesus had no need to have sin forgiven. He did, however, need to set an example for us to follow. To celebrate a sacrament is to express visibly what is real invisibly. Jesus is profoundly united to the Father and the Holy Spirit in a way not visible to us. At his baptism, we see the Holy Spirit in the image of a dove, and we hear the voice of the Father proclaim, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” The reality of Jesus’ Trinitarian union becomes visible to us in this baptismal submission.

When we submit to baptism, the same visible expression of the invisible is taking place. We are united to the Triune God interiorly. The material aspects of the sacrament represent the reality that has taken place within us: water and the white garment remind us that we have been washed clean of sin and made a new creation; oil marks out our chosen status as priest, prophet, and king; the lit candle recalls to our minds that the presence of Christ lives within us and must be made manifest in our lives; and in celebrating this sacrament in the assembly of the Church we express our unity with the Church, the visible sacrament of Jesus’ presence in the world. And if we remain silent long enough we will hear the words of God the Father spoken to us in our hearts: This is my beloved child, in whom I am pleased.

Each day we ask ourselves whether what we express visibly to others in our words, actions, and omissions represent the invisible reality within us in the life of the spirit. The call of baptism is the most fundamental call we receive from God. All other callings in our life – to marriage, to priesthood or religious life, to a particular profession – represent the concrete way in which we will live out our baptismal call to holiness. As we seek to live in a way that unites our visible reality to the invisible call of God, we pray that the intercession and example of Jesus might lead us to this harmony in our lives: “Let us pray as we listen to the voice of God’s Spirit. Father in heaven, you revealed Christ as your Son by the voice that spoke over the waters of the Jordan. May all who share in the sonship of Christ follow in his path of service to man, and reflect the glory of his kingdom, even to the ends of the earth, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.”

Jude Huntz is Chancellor of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

 

Daily Scripture Readings

For complete daily Scripture texts, click here. http://www.usccb.org

Monday, January 14
Hebrews 1:1-6
Psalms 97:1 & 2b, 6 & 7c, 9
Mark 1:14-20

Tuesday, January 15
Hebrews 2:5-12
Psalms 8:2ab & 5, 6-7, 8-9
Mark 1:21-28

Wednesday, January 16
Hebrews 2:14-18
Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
Mark 1:29-39

Thursday, January 17
Hebrews 3:7-14
Psalms 95:6-7c, 8-9, 10-11
Mark 1:40-45

Friday, January 18
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11
Psalms 78:3 & 4bc, 6c-7, 8
Mark 2:1-12

Saturday, January 19
Hebrews 4:12-16
Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15
Mark 2:13-17

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday January 20
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11

Monday, January 21
Hebrews 5:1-10
Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Mark 2:18-22

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Tuesday, January 22
Hebrews 6:10-20
Psalms 111:1-2, 4-5, 9 & 10c
Mark 2:23-28

Wednesday, January 23
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17
Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
Mark 3:1-6

Thursday, January 24
Hebrews 7:25—8:6
Psalms 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17
Mark 3:7-12

Friday January 25
Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22
Psalms 117:1bc, 2
Mark 16:15-18

Saturday, January 26
2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5
Psalms 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10
Mark 3:20-21

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday January 27
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalms 19:8, 9, 10, 15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

 

The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/

Click on the “Daily Readings” tab on the right hand side of the page.

 

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Saturday
November 29, 2014
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph