Baptism of the Lord
January 10, 2016


Christmas season officially ends today with second Vespers. But endings do not just refer to closings. Endings are beginnings, too. And nowhere else is this made clearer as in today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas ends, but the spirit of the celebration goes on with even stronger impetus.

Christ is born. For … for others … for mission … for ministry … for service … for the salvation – the life, if you will – of the world steeped in darkness, but which has seen in His birth, a marvelous light.

Isaiah loses no time and is never ambivalent about whom he refers to – the “chosen one with whom [God] is well pleased.” He is called “for the victory of justice,” “as a covenant for the people,” “a light for the nations,” … along with a longer list of “to do’s”.

He was sent for mission. And mission connotes a list of “to do’s.” All that, in a word, is ministry.

In Tagalog, we have a truism from homespun wisdom: “Hindi araw-araw ay Pasko.” Roughly, it means that not everyday is Christmas, but it really means a whole lot more than that obvious statement. It also means that, after Christmas, after the feast, there is work to do. There is a mission to accomplish. There is service; there is ministry. There are tasks to fulfill.

Those tasks (munus), it has to be stated, are all offshoots of the history-changing event of the birth of the promised Savior!

Let us get down to concrete ramifications right off …

We all were called. We were all baptized in water and Spirit. We were sealed and signed with God’’s grace of salvation. We were made adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever.

But everything signed and sealed ought to be delivered. Everything marked for service for others have to be sent – precisely to do as willed by the sender.

We Christians, baptized in water and Spirit are sealed, not only for salvation, but also for service. We need to understand that Mission and Ministry go hand in hand. And there can be no consecration without mission; no mission without ministry; no salvation as willed by God without service.

The whole Philippines yesterday was once again in devotional mode. Millions attended and followed the procession of the Black Nazarene. The devotion of millions to the Black Nazarene, no matter the protestations of non-Catholics, is basically and essentially devotion to what the statue represents, not to the material statue, and that is precisely the one who, today, was baptized in the Jordan.

But devotion without the corresponding dedication to mission and ministry is not complete; not authentic; not genuine. Prayer without action is an empty shell of an activity. Faith without works is dead. And devotion without the corresponding dedication to help realize, actualize and fulfill what one prays for is pharisaical.

And here is where today’s solemnity of the Lord’s Baptism shines out in full …
Our attachment to God has to have the same “sparks” and “dramatic element” – what Daniel Donovan refers to as “dynamic and almost explosive quality about it.”

And this is no mere dramatics. This is no mere sensationalistic reportage.  When the Lord was baptized,  a voice cried out: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Will the Lord be pleased with us, if all we did was wallow in tinsel and foil and celebrate an empty Christmas devoid of mission and ministry? Will the Lord be pleased with our empty devotion devoid of dedication and commitment to the betterment of the world and for the good of others?

Make no mistake about it. You are called. You are sent. For mission. For ministry.