Thin Epiphanies

thin-placeThis Sunday’s Gospel (John 1:29-34) speaks of the Baptism of the Lord, yet that was celebrated this past Monday. Some of the more observant among you might be thinking “Isn’t the Baptism of the Lord a Sunday celebration?”  Most years it is, unless Epiphany falls on January 7 th or 8 th which it did this year. In such cases, the Baptism of the Lord celebration falls on Monday. Not sure what to make of that, but there it is. It made we wonder why the Baptism of the Lord is so connected to the Epiphany. Continue reading

New Creations: Lamb of God

Baptism-Jesus29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30  He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

After John’s interrogation by priests, Levites and Pharisees, the evangelist tells us, The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ This is but the start of a short, compact testimony by the Baptist witnessing to the One he had just baptized. Continue reading

New Creations: context

Baptism-Jesus29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

Context. We begin the new liturgical year’s ordinary time with the beginning of John’s gospel. What precedes our Sunday gospel is the very rich and complex Prologue to the Fourth Gospel. Where Mark begins with the gospel message, Luke and Matthew begin with the birth narratives, John takes us back to the time before Time to reveal the eternal purpose of God. Continue reading

What divides: baptism

christ-dancing-christianThere is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (v.50)

The word baptizō used here is the same as that used for water baptism elsewhere in the NT. However, clearly Jesus is not referring to a water baptism (Luke 3:21-22) as that has already occurred. The verbal form of the word means to “plunge” offering several possible meanings: Continue reading

Are you Jesus?

jesus-and-child“Are you Jesus?” It is a question I get asked on occasion, most often because of the Franciscan habit that I wear. Lots of times the question comes from small children. Their picture books show Jesus in his robes and then they see me. I suspect the question is more about my Franciscan robes. Maybe on my good days it is about me. Maybe, just maybe there was a moment when I was Jesus for them.

The question is also asked at the hospital. Much of the time when we are called out in the middle of the night for “last rites” the patient is intubated and not conscious. But sometimes the patient is still with us. You can imagine the scene: The person, knowing death is near, has turned their thoughts to life after death. I enter the darkened room with the light shining from behind me, interrupting their silent prayer and thought; what they see is the outline of the One to whom they have been praying. “Are you Jesus?” In that moment, in the name of the Church, perhaps I am – or at least the presence of Christ as I bring the community’s final prayer and viaticum – the Holy Eucharist for the final journey home. Continue reading

Why He Came: cup and baptism

serve-one-anotherJesus Responds. It would be good to know Jesus’ tone of voice when he responds. Is it exasperation caused by their continuing blindness? Is it said as a tired sigh but with a willingness to again engage them and lead them to a deeper understanding and awareness? Does it have an edge? It might well be the simple inquiry to uncover what they understand: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

There are several lines of interpretation regarding Jesus’ reply. Some scholars hold that the images offered (“drink” and “baptism”) do not hold the same significance for the disciples as they do for Jesus. In this line of thought, the cup and baptism point to Jesus’ voluntary obedience unto death for the sins of humanity; whereas, the images suggest the disciples moral participation in Jesus’ passion. [Lane, 379]. But the construct of the sentence is in the present tense. In other words, right at his moment, Jesus is drinking and being baptized. This seems to point to something other than a future moral participation in the Passion. Continue reading

Behold the Lamb of God: commentary

I-saw-the-Spirit-come2John 1:29-34 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30  He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Commentary. After John’s interrogation by priests, Levites and Pharisees, the evangelist tells us, The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ This is but the start of a short, compact testimony by the Baptist witnessing to the One he had just baptized. Continue reading

Baptized, Sent, and Falling Short

Homa Bay, on Winam Gulf, Lake Victoria, Kenya;...

Homa Bay,Kenya

You’ve seen the movies: a person is in danger, slipping off a cliff or a building or some other perilous perch. Another person grasps them by the hand and desperately tries to pull him or her to safety. That is the image Isaiah gives us: God grasps the chosen servant by the hand and hangs on for dear life.  “I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant to the people” (Is 42:6). It is an image that  Pope Benedict XVI sees in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the sinless one, plunges into the waters of our life, grasps a new covenant people by the hand, rises from the waters, all the while hanging on for dear life – our life.  And we are baptized into Christ, raised toward eternal life, commissioned to journey through this life.  Baptized and sent.

18 years ago, on the 2nd day of my mission to Kenya, I found myself in the back seat, traveling by car from Kisumu to Homa Bay on a mostly rough, uneven, dusty and rock-strewn dirt road only meters from Lake Victoria. The land was dry, parched, and in need of irrigation – all the result of irrigation projects promised but never seemingly a high enough national priority for this out-of-the-way corner of the nation.  Later we were to discover we were between the short rains of December and the long rains of July and August – and in reality, at the beginning of a year-long drought. Continue reading

The Things We Know….or should…

Baptism-JesusYou know your birthday.  You know your significant other’s birthday – or if you don’t you should learn it quickly!  You know your anniversary.  If you’re a priest like myself, you know your date of ordination.  But….do you know the date of your baptism?

It is a question Pope Benedict asked in his first general audience of 2014.  Heck of a question, heh? Here are some of Pope Francis’ insights: Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: context

The baptism of Jesus by John the baptist, as i...Matthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Context. The story of Jesus in Matthew 3:1–4:16 is bracketed by John the Baptist’s ministry.

  • In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (3:1-2).
  • From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17)

John prepared the way for Jesus and his ministry. Where John’s proclamation is that the kingdom is “right around the corner,” Jesus announces that the kingdom is here in the person of the Messiah, the Son of God.  The “inauguration” of the in-breaking of the kingdom (kairos) into Time (chromos) occurs at the baptism of Jesus which serves as the occasion for the coming of the Spirit and the Father’s approval of his beloved son. Continue reading