Posted tagged ‘Baptism’

Revelation Unveiled: Have You Died?

May 22, 2012

St. John fell at Jesus’ feet as though dead (see Revelation 1:17).

Revelation 17:1, 19:10; 21:9 & 22:8 refer to John falling down to worship one of the angels who held the bowls filled with the seven plagues–
but each time the prostration seems to have been voluntary,
and the angels stopped him, telling him to get up, to worship God alone.

In Revelation 1:17, John falls down as though dead
not typically a voluntary thing!
And Jesus doesn’t stop John or tell him to get up.
He simply reaches out His right hand, touches him,
tells him not to fear, and gives him a mission:
“Now write what you see.”

There’s an element of resurrection here.
Given that John’s falling as though dead
was a direct consequence of seeing Jesus
–and experiencing the sword coming from His mouth!–
one could propose that John was pierced, penetrated,
slain by that sword
(as we should be every time we encounter this living Word).

In some sense, he died.

Nor was he resuscitated.
He didn’t go back to the same old life he had before,
to doing his own thing.
What he did during and after that vision
was purely the King’s business–
a whole new life.

That’s what Baptism is.

Do you not know
that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into His death?
We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism
into death,
so that as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might walk in newness of life
-Romans 6:3-4

The Baptized have died.
Our natural way of life, our “old self”
is dead.

I have been crucified with Christ;
it is no longer I who live,
but Christ Who lives in me;
and the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God
Who loved me and gave Himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

Our natural life has a way of resuscitating–
of going back to life as usual.

We need resurrection,
a whole new life in Christ,
Christ living in me.

This is ongoing.

Every choice
needs to pass through the crucifying waters of Baptism.
Is this my old natural life
or the life of Christ?

I can ask of every decision,
“Have you died?”
“Whose life is this?”

An old song comes to mind (I haven’t been able to track down the artist):

Have you died?
Have you laid down your life?
Have you died
and risen to new life?
The love of Jesus Christ
is worth the dying price.
It’s a gift that you can open all your life.
Have you died?

Those who have died this death,
however repeatedly,
need not fear “the second death,”
the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:14).

And they will find that in this life, too,
those who lose themselves
find themselves (see Matthew 16:25).
Living the life of Christ,
the life of divine love,
is its own reward!

St. John fell at Jesus’ feet as though dead.
That’s not a bad way to start the morning’s prayer,
flat on my face before the Living One,
the One Who died and is alive forevermore,
Who reaches out in love to touch me, to tell me not to fear,
and to entrust me with His life,
with His mission for the day.

Now tell me:
Have you died…today?

Divine Happiness

May 18, 2010

Some years ago I was captivated by an aspiration
(“one-liner” prayer) from St. Alphonsus de Liguori:
“Lord I rejoice that You are infinitely happy”

I’ve been praying that routinely that ever since, and it’s given me much fodder for meditation. How can God be infinitely happy when there’s so much pain and suffering? Sacred Scripture makes it abundantly clear that it’s not because He doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. He thunders against injustice (Isaiah 5:18-25, etc.), lifts up the lowly (Luke 1:52), fathers the fatherless (Psalm 68:5–etc.). But that’s just the point. He has everything under control. He’s working everything–even the worst of it–together toward a glorious end (Romans 8:28)…and since He’s eternal, that end is always before Him. He can rejoice in it always (just as St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!” -Philippians 4:4, despite his laundry list of beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, etc.: II Corinthians 11:23-33).

Then there’s the inner delight of the Trinity, God the Father delighting in His Son, Who is eternally with Him (“This is My beloved Son, in Whom I take My delight” -Matthew 3:17, 17:5, I Peter 1:17, etc.) and Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit as He offers praise to God the Father (Luke 10:21). This fits St. Thomas Aquinas’ classical definition of happiness as the enjoyment of the possession of a good–in this case, the supreme Good! God is overflowing with the joys of Heaven, redeeming the troubles of earth.

This awareness of divine happiness has made God seem more approachable. It’s much nicer (and safer!) to be around a genuinely happy Person than one who’s preoccupied with trouble. And I had the sense that since I’m united with Jesus through my Baptism (Romans 6:3-5, Galatians 3:27), this unalterable happiness has a place in my life too (not to be mistaken for putting on a plastic smile no matter what, nor for always feeling good). St. Paul commands it, for one thing (Philippians 4:4, quoted above), and since God has given Himself to me (especially through Baptism and Holy Communion), as long as I’m in a state of grace I always have an infinite Good to enjoy (God Himself!). Then I came across this:

[when we are friends with God,]
unselfish love has identified our will
with the will of our Friend [God],
His happiness is ours–even as it is between human friends. From the first moment of this divine friendship,
our Friend is always and intimately with us:
as Lord and Creator to His creatures
as the object of our knowledge and love,
and by that extremely intimate presence by grace
which enables us to live His very life.
Then there is that triumphant joy
in our Friend’s possession of the great good we wish Him;
though He does not so much possess it, as He is it.
Nothing can threaten His happiness,
nothing can dim the joy of our friendship.
-Walter Farrell, A Companion to the Summa, vol 3

Through our friendship with God, His happiness is ours–forever!

‘Course, this begs a question. Am I that kind of friend to God? Do I love Him unselfishly, desiring His happiness over my own? Or am I just in this relationship for my own pleasure? (or do I relate to Him at all?) Worse yet, have I driven Him (and His happiness) out of my life through sin?!

And it requires a few qualifiers. Sharing divine happiness doesn’t mean that I cease to have other emotions. If one friend gave birth and another had a miscarriage, I would rightly rejoice with the one and grieve with the other (“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”, Romans 12:15). Jesus’ infinite happiness did not prevent Him from being moved by the deepest emotions, weeping at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:33-35), and weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). There is a place within God’s sacred order for the whole gamut of emotions. Divine happiness helps me to keep them in that place so that they can fulfill the purpose for which God made them instead of running away with me. It provides an underlying stability, and a “home-base” of happiness, a ray of Sonshine, to which I can return.

Lord, I rejoice that You are infinitely happy,
and that You have loved me into being
that I may share in Your infinite happiness! Amen.

Jesus’ Baptism as a Type

November 13, 2003

If Baptism is a type (figure) of death, then Jesus prefigured His death in His Baptism, and his descent to the dead by His going forth into the wilderness where He faced off with Satan.

Fisher of Men

November 13, 2003

Jesus, who’d spent His whole working life as a carpenter, left His carpentry shop to go “fishing”–to be the first “fisher of men.”

I can just see the sign He put up on the shop door before He left: “Out of Business (gone fishin’).”

Well, if you’re going to go fishing, where do you go? You go where the fish are, of course–down to the water. And so He did. He went down to the Jordan river. Then He went into the water–with the fish, where He was Baptized. Sounds a bit like the Incarnation…

(What follows is pure whimsy, very loosely based on Matthew 1:18-25, 3:13-4:1, 4:19, Mark 3:21, 6:3, Luke 1:28, 3:23, John 2:1-11, 4:4-42)

A sign hangs on the carpenter’s shop: “Out of Business–gone fishin’.” And the tongues are wagging.

Fishing?! Whatever can that rash upstart be thinking?! Why, He’s barely thirty years old. He’s just begun! He can’t retire yet!”

“Oh, well you know what they say about Him. Illegitimate son of the prettiest girl in town. What can you expect?”

“Well, yeah, but where am I supposed to get my cart wheels fixed now? I don’t want to go all the way to Barsimeon’s in Cana. Besides, how’d I get there with a broken cart wheel?!”

“I know, I’ve got the same problem. Say, did you hear where Jesus actually went? Down to the Jordan.”

“Well, if you’re going fishing, I s’pose that’d be as good a place as any–not that He knows anything about fishing!”

“No, it gets better. He got that desert man John to baptize Him.”

“Oh He did, did He? Well good for Him. Maybe it’ll keep Him out of trouble for a while. That baptism thing’s supposed to be all about repentance, right? Maybe He will “repent” of closing the shop & come back to take care of things again!”

“I don’t think so. Last anyone saw Him, He was headed out for the desert Himself.”

“Oh really! Funny place to go if you want to catch fish!” (laughter)

“Yeah, it’s just Mary left behind to take care of things. Husband dead, son run off on some crazy nonsense. I guess it serves her right for that little fling she had as a girl. I never did really understand that, though. Every time I’ve ever seen her, she’s seemed like the purest creature to ever walk the earth.”

“Not to mention the most beautiful. Wow! Well, you know, maybe there wasn’t much she could do about it. After all, that kind of beauty can drive a man to desperate measures.”

“I know, but that’s what she had a father for, and a fiancé. They’re supposed to make sure she’s safe.”

“Hey, have you ever tried to keep an eye on everything that happens around a girl? No! You only have sons. Cut the guys some slack. It’s not as easy as you think.”

“Oh no! I’m so sorry! I forgot!”

“Yeah, well, Dinah never will.”

“No, I suppose she won’t. Ran off to live with the Samaritans, didn’t she?”

“Outcast among the outcasts, that’s what she said. What gets me is that the guy who did it to her didn’t suffer at all. ‘Fine, upstanding citizen,’ he is. Bah. A curse upon him! But that won’t give me my little girl back. My sweet, innocent, devout daughter. What is she now? Practically a prostitute, married 5 times & now living with a guy–and a Samaritan at that. You don’t get much lower. It just breaks my heart the way she’s turned away from God.”

“It’s tragic all right. You just keep praying for her & taking those sin offerings to the temple. Sooner or later, God’s got to take notice and bring her back. Who knows, maybe this crazy Jesus will be the one God uses. They say it takes one to know one!”

“Yeah, well, I’m not holding my breath. Hey I gotta run. If I’m not home in time for lunch I’m gonna hear about it–relatives are coming over, you know.”

“Oh, I know all about that. We’ve been working on wedding plans for months now & it’s still a couple months away. Gonna be a daughter-in-law in my house pretty soon. I sure hope that doesn’t create any more catfights than we’ve already got! I guess I’d better get going too. I’m in charge of getting the wine & I haven’t gotten to the market yet. See you later!”

And in another part of the town square:
“Well, will you look at that! ‘Out of Business’? Whatever can have happened?!”

“You got me. Midlife crisis, maybe? Seems a little young for that…well, all I can say is that it’s a crying shame when the best carpenter in the country gets it in His head to go off & become a fisherman. Why, carpentry’s a respected trade! Why’d He want to go be a smelly old fisherman?!”

“You’d think His mother’d try talk Him out of it. After all, He’s all she’s got left!”

“Oh, you know Mary. Why I declare, sometimes I think she worships that boy of hers! Only son, and all. He gets whatever He wants! I just don’t see how He came out so unspoiled. A little too direct for my taste, sometimes, but not the whiny, helpless type you usually see when nobody ever says no.”

“’Course, you’ve got to give Mary credit. Every idea of His she’s gone along with has been a goldmine. She just knows a good thing when she sees it. Can you blame her for that?”

“Well, no, but this time that Jesus has really gone off his rocker. She really should’ve done something about it.”

“Maybe we can get some of the relatives together to talk some sense into her and go after Him–it’s worth a try. Besides, my spinning wheel isn’t running so smoothly lately. He needs to get back here & take care of it!”

“Mine too. Well, let me know if you hear anything. I’d better get supper started before the devourers return.”

“I know what you mean. Me too! Bye!”

Oh, He’s coming back, alright. But the things He wants to fix now are a lot more important than carts & spinning wheels!

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