Balik-Tanaw | Of Immersion and Baptism

By DSS. NORMA P. DOLLAGA
UMC/KASIMBAYAN

Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
Is 42:1-4, 6-7
Acts 10:34-38
Mk 1:7-11

The passage brings in powerful symbolism or representation of the ministry, life, work, death and resurrection of Jesus. To be baptized (baptizein) is to be immersed, to be dipped in water, to be soaked. The act of baptism became later a symbol of religious rite of cleansing and purification.

In the story, Jesus immersed from the water in what the text describes as the baptism rite. The Spirit, like a dove came down upon the radical tearing apart of heaven.

There are three beautiful and provoking phrases in the passage:

1. Heaven being torn apart
2. The descending of the Spirit
3. The Baptism

The “Heaven being torn apart” reminds me of the hymn “Hymn of Promise”. The first stanza speaks about the rupturing of the earth, and the seasons that would pave way to new creation:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

https://sundaymassreadings.com/2019/01/09/january-13-2019-the-baptism-of-the-lord/

The coming down or the descending of Spirit manifest that the location of her mission is earth bound, that is to make God’s will to happen on earth as it is in heaven. The Spirit is made known to us through body and flesh in Jesus, our friend and redeemer. Jesus fully immersed his body and spirit to the world. In his journey on earth he chose to be with the common folks, to be with the “nobodies”. Jesus must have found deep sense of joy and meaning to be with the company of the rebels, of tax collectors, the poor, sinners and those people who are pushed to the fringes of society to which the world continue to detest to this day. Jesus found friendship and kinship in these people more than the rich and powerful in the society who were most despised by the downtrodden not because they of envy them but because they were the makers of the unjust laws , protectors of the greedy , and the oppressors themselves.

As Jesus thrive in the company of the “nobodies”, his flesh was then acquainted with hunger and thirst, he became familiar with insecurity of homelessness, he knew how it is to be threatened by the state, how it is to be denied of help, how it is to be arrested, imprisoned, and harassed. It is through the flesh, his body had touched the lepers and the unclean, , listened to the cries of the poor and the neglected. It is through Jesus’ body that he continued his ministry to the poor and the afflicted. It is his body that endured torture as he was hanged on the cross for capital punishment.

In the text, Jesus’ baptism was a rite and a symbol of purification. Jesus was purified by his constant immersion with the people. He identified himself with the poor who longed for redemption and liberation. Jesus could have fell into the temptation of abandoning his mission. But as he was being purified by way of his immersion with the people, his compassion was deepened, his commitment for service was strengthened , and his greater love for his friends has been nurtured until his very last breath.

Jesus’ immersion with the people is the fulfillment of his baptism. Jesus is one among us, and with us. And as the people experience deep and winding sorrow, where so much injustice and suffering abound, we can rely on Jesus’ presence in our lives.

As a fulfillment of his prophetic role, Jesus proclaimed the gospel, questioned the status quo, and challenged the society to fight and find for an alternative world. Jesus defended his friends, the poor and the oppressed. His whole life was dedicated to eradication of apathy that supports and enables exploitation. Jesus’ ministry on earth “is the word became flesh” – that God is on the side of the poor, of those who are neglected. Not only did Jesus take the side of the poor, he was one with them in demanding what is best for them.

The body of Chirst- the church is being called upon to be more daring in offering alternatives to the increasing structural violence and oppression in the country. Exploitation only denies the right to life of the people, and denies them to further enjoy God’s given gifts to them.

In humility the church must constantly feel the need to be immersed and be baptized ,be soaked in the daily grind of our people. The church does this in memory of Jesus who through immersion that he came to know intimately the real and pulsating realities of the people who for the longest time have suffered from structural sin.

An immersed church is very much capable of taking the side of the poor, and those who have been wronged by the system. We need a Church that denounces the powers-that-be who have entitled themselves to an exclusive right to accumulate properties, profits, and personal benefits at the expense the poor. We need a Church that is scandalized by any curtailment of people’s freedom to resist the fetters of oppression and the seduction of corruption. We need a Church that seeks the release of political prisoners put behind bars because they lived out the teachings of the prophets to defend the rights of the poor and to struggle for their emancipation. We need a church who would stand with the people in claiming the people’s right to resist and engage in liberation movements intended to unshackle them from slavery, exploitation.

May we feel the spirit descending upon us, and renew our commitment to serve the least amongst us – so we may experience the continuous purification in our baptism with the grassroots, and the underside. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).

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