Sunday, January 13, 2013

Descending into the Waters of Suffering and Death

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power” – so declared St. Peter as he explained the significance of the Baptism of the Lord in the river Jordan. To be anointed means to be endowed with every authority in the heavens and on earth. At his baptism, the Lord Jesus was revealed as the one filled with the Holy Spirit and power, the one who, according to St. John the Baptist, is “mightier than I …He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” And His power and authority comes from the fact that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. The Father himself testified on his account: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am very well pleased!” Here is God’s chosen One with whom He is pleased, upon whom God has placed his Spirit.

However, his power is unlike anything that the world has known. He exercises his authority in a way the world has not seen before. For while the rulers of this world lord it over their subordinates, the power of Christ is gentle and mild: “He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not making his voice heard in the streets” (Mahinahon at banayad kung siya’y magsalita, ni hindi magtataas ang kanyang tinig). In fact, his gentle rule is one that is filled with mercy: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench…” (Ang marupok na tambo’y hindi babaliin, ilaw na aandap-andap di niya papatayin). On account of his gentleness, he stood unrecognized among those who went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. He stood unrecognized until the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and the Father in heaven made his solemn declaration. In this way, the Lord Jesus reveals the path he wishes his Church to take: the way of gentleness. “Learn from me for I am meek and gentle of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The path that the Lord reveals to us makes following him in a very secular society much challenging and difficult.  Christ’s gentleness makes it easy for his enemies to malign him, ignore his laws, and persecute his followers. Sometimes, we even complain to the Lord why he made it so difficult for us to struggle for his kingdom on earth. How difficult is it to proclaim the Gospel with a gentle voice (not crying out, not making his voice heard in the streets) to a world that easily drowns this voice with the noises that it makes. How difficult is it to preach of Christ’s authority to a world that scoffs at it and underestimates it.

And yet, it is this path of gentleness that the Church must take if she is to follow him who descended into the waters of the Jordan and further descended into the baptism of suffering and death. We follow the Lamb like sheep led to the slaughter. We who descend into the waters of baptism descend with Christ into his death and burial. Difficult as it may be, we nevertheless descend with him into the waters of suffering and death for he is the One called “for the victory of justice…set (you) as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations…” We follow him through this difficult path for he is Lord of all and there is no other. He, the meek and humble One, invites us to follow him and learn from him. He assures us that this is the right and only path: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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