Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus…pretty powerful since Jesus was without sin.

Thank you for my baptism to St. Catherine. You are slowly allowing yourselves a chuckle or two during a sermon. It’s okay. The walls of this ancient church will not crumble when a reference is made for your humorous approval or understanding. There’s more of that but not today.

Jesus clearly showed us how life is lived. However, it doesn’t seem fair since he only had three years compared to ours – what seventy, eighty, ninety ones? But, be that as it may…I guess he needed a shorter time than we do. He showed us how to a person. Please don’t take that pronoun lightly because it is the height and the depth of God’s creature. To be a “person.”

The other day someone said to me as a sort of apology about someone, “You know it’s only human nature.” Told to me as though that’s a convenient out. As a way of dismissing questionable behavior. I replied, “Jesus showed us how to be human.” The best theology you’ll ever hear from the Catholic Church is that to be fully human, a person, is to be God. Combine all the events of the life of Jesus. “Fully human, fully divine?” That’s not a fancy Hallmark greeting card that, brothers and sisters, is the hallmark of our faith.

When are you at your best? When you are most yourself? You say something stupid to someone and driving home think to yourself, “Did I really say that?” Yes, you did. You were not being yourself. You were not the created creature created by the Creator. So, you call your friend the next day and apologize. Now you are the created creature created by the Creator. (Using four “C” words in one sentence. It is the belief that the holy lives within our human nature that is divinely ours).

The union of human and divine is made one through the life and times of Jesus Christ, beginning with his sinless baptism. The Catholic theology of baptism evolves from the original sin. That’s not because this young thing is full of evil but remains a reminder of where we came from – a sinful ignorance of our humanity by eating that tempting red apple of knowledge and then blaming everyone else except yourself. The apple’s kind of experience is reserved for the divine. Human sin tempts our fragile humanity with a “know it all” attitude.

Baptism, sacramentally, propels us in confidence and trust toward a life worthy of life. Managing the sorry side of our selfishness. Baptism naturally welcomes us into a church of fellow travelers, sometimes weak but more often strong. Because, aren’t we stronger together? Aren’t we more sure of ourselves because we have others to nuance our thinking and keep us on a more confident path toward God’s Kingdom? Like any sacrament, it is never about an individual, but it is about being an individual (a person) within a community.

“Three persons in one God?” Ummm. Human and Divine? Sound familiar? One person, living within us, thanks be to Jesus Christ. Human and Divine.
We keep splitting those two apart because of our life’s foibles and follies. (That’s the polite way of calling a sin a sin.) Uniting human and divine, as Jesus did, gives us both the humility of humanity and the power of a grace-filled divinity; slowly becoming a person.

We may never reach the fullness of personhood; that is our gift given us at baptism. Deep in our souls we know when we’ve been Christ-like. A popular hyphenated word. That’s the baptismal effect. We also know when we’ve denied our baptism because of that tempting, damn, red, delicious apple. (Can you say “damn” in church?)

Jesus showed us and continues to show us. We try our best. It’s a lifelong journey offering few times for recess. Why do I choose recess? Because my eighth-grade nun told us, kids, repeatedly, “Good, better, best. May it never rest until the good gets better the better best.” That’s is the Baptism of Jesus, and it is the baptism of us.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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