Chapter Talk – Baptism of the Lord – January 10, 2021, cycle-B
Jesus descends into the waters of baptism: this descent, this surrender to the will of his Abba, this immense turning of his whole being towards his Abba, towards giving himself over entirely to God, releases the even more immense power of Love, a Love that unites Father to Son, a Love that will never leave Jesus and will become his sustaining Source throughout his whole ministry, his death and Resurrection.
With Jesus’ Baptism the Christmas cycle concludes. We are given another manifestation, an epiphany of God’s life birthing forth from Jesus: out of the baptismal waters a voice speaks: ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’ (Mk 1:11). This baptismal encounter becomes the power and strength that Jesus will draw from. Almost immediately after his baptism, Jesus is thrown into conflict when he is driven out into the desert and tempted by Satan. But notice how he handles conflict from the temptations throughout his whole ministry. His baptism experience…the knowing that he is the beloved Son of God…this Love relationship becomes the rich ground that Jesus will return to over and over again, for all that he will encounter, and for all that he will say and teach.
Jesus’ baptism is not simply an historical event of the past. It lives on and has eternal reverberations right into our time and place. In and through Jesus’ baptism the heart of God is opened to everyone: the gift of the Spirit in Christ has descended upon us in our baptism. In his book, The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, Fr. Killian McDonnell writes: “The divine Spirit hastens to the divine Jesus. Like rushes to like. It is this divine Spirit that divinizes those who follow Jesus down into the waters of baptism” (p.130). With the mystery of the Incarnation, and Jesus’ baptism, we now have access to the process of divinization. Jesus’ baptism is the final ‘epiphany’ of the Christmas cycle and its significance is that we concretely can see the WAY that is offered to us, his would be followers. The implication of our baptism is that we commit ourselves to ‘put on Christ’ (Rm 13:14), to become more like him inside and out.
Fr. Michael Casey in his book Fully Human Fully Divine writes: “The Incarnation makes no sense without the corresponding doctrine of our divinization” (p.8). Fr. Michael will add that we become subhuman, less human when we do not become divine: “There is a paradox involved in this doctrine: it is only by becoming divine that we begin to be fully human. Conversely, if we are not divinized we become subhuman—beings whose innate potential has been left unrealized. The dual nature of Christ finds its echo in our own progressive transformation” (p.9). Going into the waters of baptism opens us to an inner renewal…we all need change to keep us growing in this process of divinization. We need to reaffirm daily our baptismal promise for we need those waters of renewal and change day by day.
By descending into the waters of baptism we allow Christ to be at the center of this renewal. We let go in order to be renewed, in order for change to happen in our lives. The baptismal epiphany of Jesus is our entrance into the love relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. It opens up for us the process of our divinization and for us to become fully human and fully alive. Our humanity is not separate from the Divine life. By ‘putting on Christ’ we become part of the new creation, the new of God that is needed now not only in our individual lives, but also the life of this community, and beyond to our Church and world. Our historical baptism was a one-time event. On the spiritual journey, in our prayer life, we need to descend into the baptismal waters over and over again, for this is where God’s love for us is affirmed, this is where we encounter the anointing for conversion of our hearts and minds so that we truly are being transformed into God’s beloved sons and daughters. We have One who goes before us: the WAY is offered, the WAY is shown and his Love is the force that continues to beckon us forth. His baptism has now become our full entry into the life of God.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess