Archive for January, 2018
One time three pastors were discussing about bat infestation in their churches. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. Some got killed but the majority are still up there.” “I tried pesticide spray,” said the second pastor, “but those damn bats gave birth to new ones.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third pastor.“What did you do?” asked the interested two. “I simply baptized them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them in church since then!”
Indeed, like those bats, after baptism, many Christians are never seen in church again. This is what the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called “unchurched.” “Unchurched” has three categories:
First, the “nominal catholics.” These refer to the catholics in name only or the so-called KBL (Kasal, Binyag, Libing) Christians. Or, as one Bishop described it: Katolikong nakaalala lamang sa Dios tuwing panahon ng Kulog at kidlat, Baha at bagyo, Lahar at lindol. Or, as someone put it, Christians who come to church only three times in their whole lifetime – when they are “hatched, matched, dispatched” … to the cemetery or memorial garden, that is.
Second, the “uninformed and unformed faithful.” These refer to that many baptized Catholic Christians who grow up grossly ignorant of religious instructions and their obligations as Christians and were not formed by Christian values and virtues. There is a story said about candidates for marriage who were personally interviewed by the parish priest in a far flung area. “Do you know any dogma of the Church?” asked the priest. The girlfriend to save his boyfriend from embarrassment due to ignorance immediately answered, “The dogma of the Holy Trinity, Father!” Then the priest threw another question, “How many God do Christians have?” “Of course, one, Father,” answered the girlfriend. Then the priest gave a follow-up question, “How many divine persons in God?” “Obviously, its three divine persons, Father,” said the girlfriend. Finally, the priest turned his attention to the boyfriend and asked, “How about you? Do you have any idea what or who are the three persons in God?” The boyfriend, caught in his ignorance, responded, “Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar.” He confused the Holy Trinity with the Three Kings.
Third, the”uninterested parishioners.” These refer to the majority of Christian parishioners who are indifferent, lukewarm and uninvolved to the mission, mission and goals of the parish. In particular, uninterested to get involved with any program, project and activity of the parish. Examples of these are the Catholic parishioners who never go to Mass, who never confess their grave sins even at least once a year during Lenten season, who never receive communion, who never observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinent, who never keep holy Sunday and other holy days of obligation, and lastly, who never provide to the best of their ability for the material needs of the Church.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized not because he is a sinner but because he wants to be in solidarity with us especially in our journey towards the Kingdom of God. That he is with us and is one of us. Furthermore, the baptism of Jesus is more of a revelation of who he is and what his mission should be. As William Barclay writes: “So in the baptism there came to Jesus two certainties–the certainty that he was indeed the chosen One of God, and the certainty that the way in front of him was the way of the Cross.”
As we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of the necessity of baptism in relation to our salvation and the mission entrusted to us when we were baptized in the Lord. Is baptism really necessary? Yes, because baptism is or calls us to:
B – bath of rebirth. Original and actual sins are washed away and the baptized becomes a new creation
A – anointing with the Holy Spirit. The baptized, like Jesus, is anointed as priest, prophet and king.
P – erfection of Charity and Fullness of Christian life when it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.
T – otal dedication and commitment to live the truth of faith in every moment and aspect of life.
I – nterior repentance and conversion toward new life in Christ.
S – eal of salvation. The baptized is sealed with indelible character that he belongs to Christ and marked to be saved.
M – ission to bear fruits of holiness and evangelization.
St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that to glorify God is to be “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21). Hence, faith and baptism are joined as preconditions of salvation (Mark 16:16). It is, therefore, fitting and praiseworthy to renew our baptismal promises to love God above all and to reject Satan and all his wickedness.
In the Prologue of the Gospel according to John, the Evangelist solemnly declared: In the beginning was Word. And the Word was with God. The Word was God…He dwelt among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory that belongs only to God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth.
How the glory of Jesus as the Christ was revealed, manifested and shown upon to the nations, to the Gentiles? The glory that belongs only to God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth, is revealed to the Gentiles in many and various ways:
- In the Birth of Jesus which we commemorate every time we celebrate Christmas.
- In the person and visit of the “Magi” or the “Learned Men” from the East which we commemorate every time we celebrate the Solemnity of Epiphany, the climax of the Christmas Season.
- In the Baptism of the Lord which the Church commemorates every time we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the conclusion of the Christmas Season.
- In the First Miracle of Jesus at Cana where he transformed jars of waters into jars of quality wine.
Today, the Christmas Season concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Liturgy offers us, in St Luke’s account, the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (cf. 3:15-16, 21-22).
The Evangelist narrates that, while Jesus was in prayer, after having received Baptism among the many who were drawn by the preaching of the Precursor, the heavens opened and under the form of a dove the Holy Spirit descended upon him. In that moment a voice from on high resounded: “You are my beloved Son. On you my favour rests” (Lk 3:22).
The Baptism of the Lord was held in great importance by the apostolic community, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, there was the manifestation of the Trinitarian Mystery in a clear and complete way, but also because that event began the public ministry of Jesus on the roads to Palestine.
The Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the Cross, and it is the symbol of the entire sacramental activity by which the Redeemer will bring about the salvation of humanity.
There is a strict relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our Baptism. At the Jordan the heavens opened (cf. Lk 3:21) to indicate that the Saviour has opened the way of salvation and we can travel it thanks to our own new birth “of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5), accomplished in Baptism.
In it we are inserted into the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, the Church, we die and rise with him, we are clothed with him, as the Apostle Paul often emphasized (cf. I Cor 12:13; Rom 6:3-5; Gal 3:27). The commitment that springs from Baptism is, therefore, “to listen” to Jesus: to believe in him and gently follow him, doing his will.
In this way everyone can tend to holiness, a goal that, as the Second Vatican Council recalled, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized. May Mary, the Mother of the beloved Son of God, help us to be faithful to our Baptism always.
There is a Latin maxim that says, “Tempus fugit!”, which means in English “Time flies!” Indeed time flies quickly. It seems like only yesterday when we were preparing with all excitement and joy for Christmas. Today it is already the Feast of Epiphany that we are celebrating which brings us to the last Sunday of the Christmas Season. Just a friendly reminder: In case you failed to give someone earlier a Christmas gift, you still have some time today to do it.
The Feast of Epiphany that we are celebrating today is popularly known also as the Feast of Three Kings. The Germans were the ones who “coined” and popularized this “Feast of Three Kings.” Based on the German tradition it was assumed that there were “three kings” because of the presence of the three gifts, namely, gold, frankincense and myrrh which were very expensive during that time that only a King can afford to give it as a gift.
If we go back, however, to the biblical texts of the Gospel According To Matthew we will discover that there was no mention of the word “king.” There was no mention also of the word “three.” What was being mentioned only was the term “magi” which literally means “wise men,” “learned men,” or “enlightened astrologers.” But they were not the “fortune tellers” or the “manghuhulas” that we have today.
What is something definite in the story is that there were wise men from the East who, under the guidance of the star, had searched and found the infant Jesus with Mary his mother. They knelt down and worshiped the new-born King, opened their gifts and offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts have symbolical significance to the divine identify and mission of Jesus. Gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus. Frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus. Myrrh symbolizes the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross that brought about our salvation. Having warned not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
What is epiphany? “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “appearance” of God in the person or humanity of Jesus. It is also a revealing scene and event when God was pleased to disclose His identity, mission and plan of salvation not only to the Jews but also to the Gentiles. Epiphany also means an illuminating discovery or realization that Jesus, indeed, is the “Immanuel” the “God-with-us.”
What are the significance or implications of Epiphany in relation with our sanctification and salvation?
First, epiphany tells us that in Jesus, God became visible and audible for us. Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. In him the fullness of divinity dwells (see Col 1:15). St. John the Evangelist rightly describes the mystery of Incarnation in his Prologue when he wrote: “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; And the Word was made flesh; and He dwelt among us” (see Jn 1:1-5, 9-14). For John, however, Jesus is not only the “Word Made Flesh’ but also the “Love Made Flesh” when he declared: Through him we have seen and believe in the Love of God for us (1 Jn 4:16).
Second, epiphany tell us that the in Jesus God once again became accessible to us. In Jesus we have once again access to the Father. In Jesus we have once again access to the Father’s Kingdom. In Jesus we have once again access to the fullness of truth and grace that God alone can give. As Jesus himself declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
Third, epiphany tells us the God wants all men and women to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the fulness of truth (1 Tim 2:3-4), that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). The kingdom of God is intended for all men and women of all generations. God does not want anyone to perish eternally in hell. Salvation, therefore, is inclusive not exclusive.
What are some of the challenges for all of us? Like the wise men let us keep on searching for the fullness of truth. Once we found the truth let us adhere to the truth. Like the wise men let us also acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior and do him homage. Like the wise men let us also open our gifts and offered them to Jesus which is the greatest gift of God the Father to His people. Of course, not gold, not frankincense, not myrrh but our body, our self, our whole life. As St Paul exhorted the first early Christians in Rome: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is the kind of spiritual worship God wants from you” (Rm 12:1).