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Showing posts with label Baptism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baptism. Show all posts

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Feast of Saint Justin Martyr, the Philosopher

Today is the feast of Saint Justin the Martyr, a Christian philosopher from the second century CE. He and his students were put to death at the very beginning of the Christian era, around the year 165 CE.

Few of his writings have survived, but the work  we do have demonstrates how influential Saint Justin was in shaping our understanding of Jesus as the second person of the trinity, the Son of God, and the incarnation of the divine logos.

Justin established the theology that Jesus of Nazareth, Joshua bin Joseph was the embodied manifestation of God’s reason and rational aspect in the world.

Justin’s work also fixed into Christian consciousness the notion that all people carry a seed of the Word within them, insofar as all people are created in the divine image and share in being of God.

This doctrine is referred to as the Logos Spermatikos and it stands in stark distinction to the much more pessimistic theology of Saint Augustine of Hippo three hundred and fifty years later, who devised the doctrine of Original Sin.

The theology of Saint Justin the Martyr suggested that when God breathed life into Adam, God imparted to him God’s own self in the form of the divine logos, making Adam, and all humankind subsequent to him, into the creatures that Aristotle referred to as “the rational animal,” unlike every other animal on Earth.

What Justin taught was this: human beings bear the fullness of God within themselves, but Adam’s sin has corrupted us and occluded it, causing the seed lying within us to go dormant, thereby cutting us off from our inherent potential, the ability to live our lives in the fullness of God’s promise.

Our capacity to understand the truth, perceive beauty and do good, our desire for justice and mercy became more or less latent.

Saint Justin taught that waters of baptism were to the seed of the Word, what ordinary water is to a seed of any kind, actuating that potential, like the germination of a seed, and a source of nourishment for the Word dwelling within us, showering us with grace.

He taught that the sacrament of baptism provides us with grace that activates our potential and sets on the path to living a full spiritual life.

Given First 06.01.2020

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Homily – John 1:35 – 42 ©

The Gospel According to John – 2018.01.014

John and Jesus, and Peter Too

It is important to note that John’s Gospel, being the latest, and last to be written, coming nearly one-hundred and fifty years after the death of Jesus, takes a radical departure from any attempt to present the life of Jesus in a historical context.

The authors of John, only follow the timeline presented in the synoptic gospels; Mark, Matthew and Luke, because that narrative structure had successfully planted itself in the consciousness of the early church.

Nevertheless, John leaps away from the synoptic narrative at every opportunity that presents itself, to insert the “faith” constructions of the early church, “beliefs” about Jesus that had developed over the course of the first century that change the meaning of Jesus’ life and death, and his mission in significant ways.

By the time John’s Gospel is written, the Church is no longer concerned with courting the disciples of John the Baptist. The authors of John skip the baptism of Jesus completely. There is no passing of the torch from one to the other, there is only a statement of recognition from the Baptist, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, and with that John’s followers pick up their things to follow him, leaving the Baptist altogether.

The authors of John are not concerned with the assimilation of John’s followers into the early church, they are concerned with the structure and hierarchy of the established church, and therefore they transform this scene into an explicit endorsement of the Petrine supremacy. In which Jesus recognizes Peter as the future leader of the church from the outset, giving him his new name, Cephas, or Rock at the beginning of the ministry.

This sets the tone for the kind of propaganda John’s gospel will be delivering from the outset.  

The Baptism of the Jesus

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

  One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Homily – Mark 1:7 – 11 ©

The Gospel According to Mark – 2018.01.01

John and Jesus

The gospel for the day illustrates the movement from the ministry of John to the ministry of Jesus.

The narrative is executed with a minimum of fanfare, and with only a slight suggestion that the transposition from John to Jesus was ordained by God.

In this narrative John is depicted as acknowledging the authority of Jesus, and Jesus is depicted as a son of god, but not necessarily as God’s own self, as would be suggested in later narrative.

Jesus is not God, but has the favor of God, as John did before he was arrested and murdered.

Jesus is depicted as accepting the mission that John has handed him, and the transfer of authority is shown to be complete through the sanction of the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism of the Jesus

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said:

  ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
It was at this time that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

2nd Sunday of Christmas

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Homily – The Gospel of Luke 12:48 - 53 ©

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.08.14

The Encounter

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already! There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’


Purification by Fire

This is a cryptic passage. It is fraught with tension. it engenders worry in the reader. There is fire.
In scripture fire is not a symbol of destruction of destruction, punishment, or judgement that leads to damnation. This is true, even of those few passages that are commonly interpreted as such, such as the lake of fire in the Book of Revelation.

Fire is a symbol referring to our encounter with God. With the person of God; God, who is the creator of the universe.

Fire is a vehicle of refinement, of transformation, of purification. In this passage the blazing fire that Jesus wishes would engulf the world; that fire is the fire of baptism, it is the grace of the Holy Spirit, a baptism which he sees coming to him, and through his teaching to the rest of the entire world (or so he hoped).

Jesus’ death, his trials, his suffering did not transform the world. It did light the way. Many were called to follow the way, many are called in every generation. The more radical our response is to that call, the more clearly we are divided from our old way of life. Conflict often ensues, between a person and their loved ones, when one member of a community hears the call of the Spirit and move toward, while others are remain caught up in the distractions of the world. We are witnessing something of this today in regards to Pope, Saint Francis, “The Good,” Pope Francis is moving the church forward as the Spirit wills, and he is meeting strong resistance from the conservative powers within it.

Anytime the demands of truth and righteousness put us at odds with our conventions, mores and customs we face this opposition. Perseverance in the face of that opposition is what Jesus is speaking to when he speaks of the consuming power of the holy flame.  

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Homily - The Gospel of Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The Gospel of the Day – 2016.01.10 (Sunday)

Mythology and Ministry

‘A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’ (NJB)

Politics and the Subversion of Mission

In the calendar of observances today is a feast day. It is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. We have just concluded our celebration of his coming, and his birth. Now we are celebrating the beginning of his public ministry; the journey that led to his death on Golgotha.

Let us take a moment and consider the set of images, and the claims that are attached to them which appear in the narrative.

In Judea, and the broader Palestinian world the average person felt displaced. On the one hand they were a client state of Rome, and on the other hand they were subject to the corruption of their own royal dynasty; the Herodians, on the other hand the had no representation at the Temple in Jerusalem which was not only the spiritual, but also the economic center of their world.

The average person was ardently hoping for and expecting deliverance, the anointed one, the, the messiah, in Greek the Kyrios, in English the Christ.

They hoped for deliverance from both the political corruption of the Romans and the Herodians, as well as the sectarian at the temple, among the temple scribes, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees (returning from the diaspora).

In John the Baptist they saw a figure who might represent part of this deliverance. He was stern, and outspoken, uncompromising, and mysterious. He was an aesthetic, and while he preached repentance, he promised the reality of God’s love; present in the lives of the Baptized, present without an intermediary.

This narrative tells us that John eschewed the title and office that some of the people might have thrust on him. It tells us that John himself had the same hopes and expectations, but that John also had the knowledge of who the Christ was, and it was Jesus of Nazareth. In the statement where John says; “I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals.” John is saying that compared to Jesus, he is lower than the lowest servant.

Had John lived, the history of Christianity would have been very different. But John was arrested and killed shortly after the baptism. The disciples of Jesus, and the Gospel writers who followed them would spend the next one hundred and fifty years writing their narratives and telling their stories in a manner intended to keep the followers of John in their movement. This required a great deal of effort. This effort served to shape the Christian story in a way which ultimately undermined the significance and uniqueness of the ministry of Christ.

It perpetuated questions like:

“Who is greater John or Jesus?”

And it prompted the followers of Jesus, long after his death to amplify that narrative, making it so that Jesus did not merely receive his baptism from John, but the heavens broke open, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and a voice came out of nowhere proclaiming that Jesus was the favored and beloved Son of God.

The entirety of this is the interpolation of myth into the ordinary story of the man, Jesus of Nazareth. It introduced categories of, ownership, and inheritance, and dominion which, it may be argued that 
Jesus himself did not speak to, even though his followers were very much concerned with this.

The Christian story is best told without artifice, without the fabrication of myth, and without resorting to fables, and magic. It is a story of love, and service, of hope and healing, and the celebration of our common humanity. It eclipses the differences between the sexes, it eclipses tribalism, sectarianism, and nationalism. In doing so it shows us the only path to peace, and justice.

Feast of the Baptism of Jesus