Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Baptism Of Our Lord: Action And Reaction

Fr. Dale Matson

There are parallels with both our Lord’s baptism and His transfiguration. Unlike miracles that Jesus performed they are miracles that happened to Him. There is the miracle that happened to Him following his baptism where God the Father also said, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22). There is another parallel. The Baptism of Jesus is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany and it is at the beginning of his ministry.  The Transfiguration account is part of the lectionary for the last Sunday after Epiphany and it is near the end of his ministry. God identified Jesus as His son at the beginning of his ministry and as His son at the end of his ministry. Both His baptism and transfiguration were supernatural manifestations by which God the Father authenticated Jesus as His Son. There is one other occasion where God speaks in response to Jesus asking for God to glorify His name. It is in the temple in Jerusalem. “”Then a voice came from Heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:28). Although Jesus initiated this, He did not do this for His own sake but for the sake of the listeners that His Father would be glorified.

These are miracles of God, Who, in His sovereignty, acted unilaterally. His actions were followed by responses by those who observed and witnessed to the miracles. I am convinced at this point in my life that God can be asked to intervene in our affairs but in His sovereignty may chose not to intervene or intervene in a way that we did not ask. I also believe in those things He commanded us to do, He will faithfully involve Himself. This is especially true of the sacraments. The onus is not on God to show up. The onus is on our expectant faith to look for Him. Even the faith we employ was given to us by God. I believe with all my heart that even a Eucharist with only two believers is also attended by all the company of Heaven.

I am not attempting to set up another formula for invoking God’s presence for to do so would be making God nothing more than a puppet on a string at best and superstition or magic at worst. What I am saying however, is if we are seeking God’s glory and not our own and willing to submit our will to His, He will show us extraordinary things.

Does this require of us that we must reach a certain level of holiness before God will show up? Does it require self-flagellation and self-immolation and an ascetic life? Does this mean that we must climb some spiritual ladder? If this is your plan, then Satan will either fill you with empty pride or the despair of a treadmill going nowhere. No, it is none of these things. As the Blessed John Henry Newman once said, “It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well.”(A Short Road to Perfection, 1856).

God was initially in the Charismatic movement but was later excluded by those who attempted to  formalize, systematize and catalog ways to buy and sell His power. God is not wooed by false praise and self-appointed prophets. He is not manipulated by quoting a series of Bible verses and does not need a cult following of this or that guru in a crowded venue. God is sovereign. Our role is to react to His actions. We are to wait upon Him and to follow Him when He chooses to reveal His will to us. We did not earn nor do we merit God’s grace. Because of both His sovereignty and grace He can even offer consolations when we least expect it whether we deserve it or not. Be ready at all times.

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