Sunday, January 9, 2011

How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on

Just as a man cannot live in the flesh unless he is born in the flesh, even so a man cannot have the spiritual life of grace unless he is born again spiritually. This regeneration is effected by Baptism: "Unless a man is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [Jn 3:5]. St. Thomas Aquinas

Gospel text (Mt 3:13-17): At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, and said, «How is it you come to me: I should be baptized by you!». But Jesus answered him, «Let it be like that for now that we may fulfill the right order». John agreed. As soon as he was baptized, Jesus came up from the water. At once, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God come down like a dove and rest upon Him. At the same time a voice from heaven was heard, «This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One».

Today, we contemplate the Messiah —the Anointed— by the river Jordan «to be baptized by him [John]» (Mt 3:13). And we can see Jesus Christ as betokened by the visible physical occurrence of the Holy Spirit and, through audible words, by the Father, who proclaims of Jesus the following: «This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One» (Mt 3:17). Here, we have a marvelous motive and, at the same time, an encouraging incentive to live a life: to be beloved and chosen by the Heavenly Father. To enthrall the Father!

Somehow, we already request it in the collect prayer of today's mass: «Almighty and eternal God (...), turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness, that we may be ready to meet you in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ». God, who is infinitely good, “loves us well” all the time. But, do we allow him to?; Are we worthy of his divine benevolence?; Do we correspond to this benevolence?

To deserve such divine benevolence and complacence, Christ has provided the waters with a regenerating and purifying strength, so that, when baptized, we truly become sons of God. «Maybe someone will wonder: ‘why did He want to be baptized, if He is Holy? Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ was baptized not to be made holy by the waters, but to make holy the waters’» (St Maximus of Turin).

All this —undeservedly! — places us in a connatural level with divinity. But this first regeneration does not suffice: we need to experience the Baptism once more through a kind of continuous “second baptism”, which is our spiritual rebirth. Parallel to the Rosary's first Mystery of Light —Christ's Baptism in the Jordan river— we must contemplate Mary's example in the fourth Joyful Mystery: Purity of Heart. She, Immaculate, and a pure virgin, is quite willing to submit herself to the purification process. We crave for the simplicity, sincerity and humility that allow us to constantly live our purification as a sort of “second baptism”.

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