I don’t fully understand the Baptism of Jesus, but I do know this event marked a turning point in the Man’s life. Up until Jesus’ Baptism, we know little of His existence. The Bible gives us an account of His genealogy, of His Sacred conception and birth, of his presentation in the temple, and of his separation from Mary and Joseph and their finding Him in the temple. But of the rest, little is contained in Sacred Texts.
Until Jesus’ Baptism…
And then we see a change.
Suddenly (or so it appears to us. In reality, the Trinity had waited thousands of years for this moment!) Jesus enters the Ministry. Life in Heaven and on earth is changed forever; we start discovering who Jesus is only after His public Baptism, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the the Lord’s announcement,
You are my beloved son;
with you I am well pleased.
Before that, Jesus lived in relative anonymity.
Perhaps you had a similar experience in the loss of anonymity.
Catholics usually receive Baptism, a welcoming into God’s Family, as newborns. We don’t remember our Baptisms. We don’t remember being cleansed of original sin. We don’t remember being called to Christian life.
As a result, many of us live so-so lives. We go to Church. We take our children to religious ed classes. We even pray once in a while.
But we live our lives as we see fit. We watch media that promotes partying, skimpy clothing, and premarital sex. We shrug off moving in together as something “everybody does nowadays.” We expect our politicians to be crooks and liars and fail to hold those in authority to higher standards.
And behind the closed doors of our homes, where no one can see, in places where we should have soft places to land when the world is harsh, our self-esteem is defeated, and our hearts are weary, our greatest tragedies occur. We cast stones we’d never throw at a passerby and drown attempts to reach out in grudges, anger, and self-righteous retaliation and wake each morning with all-consuming bitterness.
Or perhaps worse…our homes contain an absence of emotion: devoid of feeling, empty, vacant, disconnected. We move in silent, separate circles, ships in the night…until one of those ships runs aground and the wreckage is made public through an affair that’s not as hidden as participants think, through a separation, and finally through an often unwanted by one divorce.
And suddenly, your life and all its imperfections are made public. There is no more going behind closed doors and hiding your pain from the world. Now it seems everyone knows everything and you are the subject of gossip, unable to go to the grocery store, your child’s school, or even to Church without being detained, questioned, and confronted with pitying looks.
Jesus was sin-free. His Baptism is a great mystery to me as is the reason so many individuals choose to walk away from Loving spouses and tear apart their own families, but the two events have something in common.
Both put an end to private anonymity.
Jesus’ ministry turned around at the point of His Baptism. He was called to be who He was, to show the world the glory of God.
They say, when in a tough situation, we face a Baptism by fire. We often joke about this, but what if the crumbling of our Marriages is truly meant as a Baptism by fire, a cleansing and refining of our lives and our families, a call to us to stop living half-hearted, lukewarm faith and instead, our call to be real, to be fully engaged, our call to public Ministry?
We need to fight for Marriage. We need to treat our spouses better than we do. Women need to submit, and Men need to be worthy of submission. We need to make choices that lead to Godly spouses and put our faith before our desires.
But sometimes, even when we do this, our Marriages fail and our sins are made public.
We are confronted with the greatest threat to God’s Kingdom on earth, the greatest threat to civilized society – the breakdown of the Family, the loss of Virtue, and the knowledge that we have contributed to this in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and what we fail to do.
But it doesn’t have to end there. This can be a sort of Baptism by fire, a refining, a cleansing, a rebirth, a calling to public Ministry.
When things go wrong, when life gets hard, when the person you would have done anything for is the one to cause your greatest suffering, it’s tempting to bury your head in the sand, to look only at your own hardships, and to blame the spouse, the third party, the Church, but that doesn’t make things better. It just perpetuates the pain.
When you’ve been singed by the fires of Hell in your devastation, call on the Fire of the Holy Spirit, renew your Confirmation commitments and ask for this Baptism of Fire to be a change, a call to begin your public ministry, an end to life in the shadows, to second class life, to being content with mediocre.
You have been Baptized by Fire in Confirmation and again in your suffering. Use that to Live the Gospel. Use that to make changes in yourself and in your world. Use that to live your call to Public Ministry. Use that to be new, to be a Child of God Born Again.
This may not be an ending for you anymore than Jesus’ Baptism was an ending for Him. This may be a way to use murky circumstances to wash away that which drags you down without your even knowing it. This may be your call to a new life.
When it seems you are offered no choice, you have the choice of holding onto the Lord with both hands or letting go and turning away. I know what I Hope you choose…
Your life is out in the open now. Why not make Good use of it?
To read Part 1, The Baptism of Jesus, Questions I Have,… Please click here.
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