Jesus is Baptised. Pouring cold water on my God thoughts.
Baptism – the right to catechise a child.
I don’t remember my baptism but I do know that what I learned of the catechism, by heart, from the age of 5, has stuck. Or it did stick until recently. I’ve not forgotten it but I now see how the answers to questions nobody else asked me in the next 60 years have sat heavily and undigested in a corpulent, almost inert, soul. Once I had been baptised, I could be catechised.
God is everywhere and unchanging. Really?
I learned that God is the biggest and the best so much so that he is unchanging and everywhere. I remember learning this when I was five. The idea stuck and only now, sixty years later do I see how this concept of an unchanging God left little room for a living relationship with God. It was not just because I lived my childhood in Glasgow that I was brought up in a fog. The urge was felt by many to impart doctrine as if it were nourishment for the spiritual life . I was fed a spiritual Atkins’ diet – all meat and fat, no fruit or veg.
Doctrine became the sculpture of God in man’s own words. This is now fully acknowledged in the new Catechism which says that ” Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God. ” (42) In this Catechism the only mention I have found of God as unchanging (260) is a quote from Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a mystic’s prayer where “unchanging” refers, of course, to “constancy in love”. A living relationship with God is constantly changing, forever directed to light and love and fresh air, in which we are formed and reformed by the Spirit and God is moved by us and grows with us. God changes: we change.
The Baptism of Jesus
Today on Pray as you Go (The UK Jesuit daily prayer/meditation page), in usual Ignatian fashion, listeners were invited to contemplate this unique event where Father, Son and Spirit manifest themselves when Jesus tells John the Baptist that his Baptism is necessary: Jesus receives the Baptism, an acceptance of repentance, an acknowledgement of inner change. Here, as with so many Gospel stories, like the virginal conception of Jesus, doctrine makes contortionists of us all but prayer, the act of contemplation where words and thoughts are set aside, can fill us with light and love, peace and joy.
“Letting be” the doctrinal complications, pushing all logic aside, I am filled with wonder. I sense an invisible current running through me when I listen to the Baptism story. I know what it means to say, “This is my child, in whom I am well pleased.” It is to say nothing, nothing in words. It is an embrace of the heart full of love, acceptance and joy. Love invades and flows through me for my own children, for all young people, for all of humanity. I am swept up in an ocean of love which is alive with the movement of this God, of Father, Son and Spirit.
This Baptism drowns me in the Trinity which is changed by my presence, by yours and by all creation.
How do I know that my life is changing God?
I had a special, close relationship with a woman who had a son. She read the Daily Mail faithfully in spite of which she had a quick, intelligent wit and was especially gifted with a discerning eye for fashionable clothes. She was a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher.
Her son turned punk and shaved his head. He became a central member of a graffiti team and an expert in planning night excursions to paint motorway bridges and train depots.
One day, on a train entering Paris she surprised me by saying, “This work you see all around here, on the trains and the walls, will one day be treasured as fine art.” She was referring to the graffiti which was everywhere. Her eyes had been opened for her by the delinquent behaviour of her son. Her love for him allowed her to discard her firm belief that graffiti was anti-social and see the beauty of the paintings sprayed onto the walls alongside the railway.
The Trinity, present at Jesus’ Baptism.
I have no Idea what this is.
Immersing myself in the scene at Jesus’ baptism, there is no mystery to the Trinity, no intellectual puzzle. Like a succulent strawberry cream cake it is as well not to linger on an analysis of the ingredients, just on taste and satisfaction. The Trinity tastes good: just as it should.
Here present at this Baptism by John, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit collaborate in John’s call to repentance. In our being with them they change, or rather God is changed, just as a couple are changed when a baby arrives. We enter into the Trinity and it is never again the same.
I can assent to all the official Doctrine as required, but as Pope Francis said when baptising children on the Feast of Jesus’ Baptism, “Some of the babies are crying because they are uncomfortable or hungry. Mothers, if they are hungry give them something to eat..” Let’s not feed children with doctrine, just with love and milk , preferably, from the breast in this wonderful communion to which we are all invited.