After Jesus' baptism the horror show begins

Tom Bartolomeo
Baptism of the Lord B 2015
Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7 Psalm 29
1 John 5:1-9 Mark 1:7-11
Reproduced with Permission

After Jesus' baptism the horror show begins. Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Satan has won the first battle with the old Adam and would give up nearly anything to win the battle again against mankind through Jesus. But forty days and forty nights of continuous temptations did not overcome the spirit of Jesus in the wilderness. Satan may have suspected that Jesus would prevail but knew he would have one more opportunity to vanquish the weakened person of God made-man in the agony of Gethsemene before Jesus' crucifixion and death the next day. In the end Jesus not only won the battle but the war against Satan opening forever the gates of heaven for other men and women including his disciples who fled during their confrontation with armed soldiers who after dark came to seize Jesus in a remote garden outside of Jerusalem. Jesus disciples needed to be baptized, not Jesus. They, too, after their conversion suffered martyrdom except the Apostle John who Jesus said would "remain until I come". (John 21:22). The other eleven disciples suffered baptisms of blood for the sake of the kingdom of God which Jesus promised them and all others who would "take up [their] cross and follow me." (Luke 9:23).

We can never really appreciate the horror Jesus endured just living in this "vale of tears". Like an innocent child who knows no sin and is suddenly confronted with naked evil we can picture the indescribable horror on a child's face, the terror and fright in his eyes which Jesus felt In his soul. Over time, however, the horror in an ordinary child's soul diminishes and becomes a familiar encounter with sin: pride, anger, envy, cruelty and the indifference of others, a limitless list of sins he observes until he is desensitized. How desensitized we become to sin and evil all about us and in us. It is impossible in our jaded condition to appreciate the constant spiritual fortitude Jesus had to muster, daily, to walk among us and face the ways of fallen humanity. Sin, any sin, was so repugnant to the innocent child-like person of Jesus. Isn't that what we love in small children? Unless we become like Jesus, unless we "change become like little children", Jesus said, "we can not enter the kingdom of heaven". (Matthew 18:3). Children were the only class of people Jesus was personally drawn to and forbade his disciples from shooing them away. They are only group of people we hear in the gospel story whom Jesus called over and caressed.

For many of us who suffer injuries and sins of others we find false relief in hatred and revenge. We dismiss Jesus' command to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" We have already received our reward, and why should we expect second reward? (cf. Matthew 5 :44-48). God judges and rewards in his own good time. As the Apostle Peter said, God "is patient . . . not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9). God, after all, has 'all the time in the world'.

Jesus reduced this reality to a single truth, "whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25). Sons and daughters of God are called to think like God as the prophet Isaiah said, "my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)

But here we are baptized Christians on our journey to the last judgement at Jesus' second coming. And we know we would not have had Christmas if there were not a Second Coming of Christ at a time and a day we do not know. Jesus' baptism, however, was very different from ours. Jesus as the source of life had no need of baptism. When John the Baptist recognized Jesus, "Behold, the Lamb of God who take away the sins of the world" he had baptized Jesus protesting, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus replied, "Let it be now, for it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness." (Matthew 3:13- 17). Someone totally innocent had to make reparation for our sins and only God was capable of such generosity, the one who gave us the gift of life was the only one who could return the gift. We can not raise ourselves from death on our own. Only God's reparations could "fulfill all righteousness" by dying and rising from the dead. Only then could "Mercy and truth [meet], Righteousness and peace embrace," as spoken by the Psalmist. (Psalm 85:10). Without "righteousness" and justice there is no mercy. The Pascal feast we celebrate on Easter emulates the sacrifice of a lamb calling down God's mercy on his fallen people, the promise of redemption the Son of Man and the Son of God made on our behalf. "By his wounds", Saint Peter acknowledged, "we were saved" which included his own betrayal of Christ, cursing that he did not know the Lord. (1 Peter 2:24). Yes, Peter was horrified by his sin and, we read, "wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:75). When was the last time we wept bitterly or confessed our sins with real remorse to the Christ who bears our sins every day among us from his childhood through his crucifixion until now as he continues to bear our sins in the body of his Church.

Would this not be a good time to renew our baptismal vows? Let us repeat "I do".
"Do you reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God's children?" "I do".
"Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?" "I do".
"Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises?" "I do".
"Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?" "I do".
"Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?" "I do".
"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting?" "I do".