Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Mystery of the Water and the Spirit

Reflections on the Readings
The Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2012 Year C
The Year of Faith 

The Mystery of the Water and the Spirit

And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." 

Quasars are the brightest and most distant objects in the universe as we know it. Recently, astronomers fixed their sight on the biggest thing in the universe.  It is a cluster of quasars so big that it is challenging the current understanding of the scale of the universe.  How big is this light cluster?  It would take a vehicle traveling at the speed of light 4 billion years to cross.  Powerful telescopic computer navigation of the heavens keeps discovering places out there that would astound even Captains Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.  

We come today to the last scene of Epiphany bringing a close to the Christmas season.  Jesus presents himself to John for baptism at the Jordan river.  He does this not because he needs it.  It is an important moment of revelation.  A revelation we do well to consider.  The mystery of Christ's baptism is a cluster of light in which we continue to discover God's infinite love for us.  The Church in her faith invites us into an abyss of a love - a baptism of life, newness of life - where in the arms of God we find a welcome home. 

Jesus is baptized not for his sake but for ours.  He reveals in this ritual a new genesis for all mankind; a union of our nature to the Father through the waters of baptism. St. Paul ascribes to our Lord the term: the last Adam. Paul explains, Thus it is written,  "The first Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit...The first man was from earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.  In our baptism we become 'new creatures in Christ Jesus.'  We enter into the Trinitarian life through baptism.  We come to baptism as women and men bearing the image of dust to receive the image of the man of heaven. 

Baptism reveals a first resurrection of sorts.  Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and he who believes in me shall never die."  Baptism is that sign of faith revealing a deeper and abiding mystery.  The mystery of the Water of the Spirit reorients us to the kingdom of God, a kingdom that flesh and blood cannot inherit, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  We must be changed and our transformation begins in the Holy Water of Baptism.  Through baptism we are born again not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  In His Love he welcomes us into his life and there in his heart he calls us his Friends.

The Father speaks from an open heaven, "This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased." The Father expresses this joy at his Son's baptism in the Jordan because it foreshadows everlasting joy in heaven.  What joy is that?  Every time a prodigal son of Adam or daughter of Eve returns to the House of Love, the angels erupt with great joy in the presence of God.  And we sing: 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.  

In the bath of baptism Jesus reveals to us the gateway to heaven.  The same Spirit that renewed the face of the primordial earth hovers over the Baptismal font of the Church renewing the hearts of the children of men.

In the second reading from Titus we hear about the reality of our new life in Christ.  The mystery of a new life in Christ Jesus comes to us by the spiritual waters of baptism.  Because of his undying mercy, Jesus saves us through the bath of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. We live our new life with the power and example of godly living: temperance, justice, and true devotion.  The grace of God appeared in a time and place in Bethlehem of Judea, Jesus our Emmanuel.  He brings to us the joy of righteousness.  He empowers us to live through the animation of his Spirit the life appropriate to those who are filled with his life. 

Today let us be renewed in the mystery of the Water and the Spirit.  In this majestically simple act of baptism, where the Holy Trinity is invoked, Jesus brings into the Father's House the children of the first Adam.  Christ brings us into the glory of His Church. 

The waters of baptism are life giving.  In our Baptism we encounter the gateway of life, Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life.  He who believes and is baptized lives no longer for himself but for him who loved us and gave himself for us.  Let us live therefore in the way that pleases him and see and love him in those who have yet to know that Jesus loves them too.  

I began this reflection talking about the immensity of the cosmos.  He who created everything out of nothing, also created the heavenly bodies out of nothing and took each of one them and called them by name and then hung them on nothing and told them to stay there.  If God in his Love arrays the heavens with breathless displays of his imagination how much more awaits us who have tasted and seen his goodness.  Indeed it is a mystery and grace more amazing by the moment for:

When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we first begun.  

Such is the mystery of the Water and the Spirit.  Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at   His website is:    

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