Written by LM Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông
January 11, 2009
Bottom Line: The Teacher is a doer, not a talker. He wants action, not pious platitudes or vague resolutions. We read that soon after Jesus' baptism, John was arrested and the Kingdom of God movement needed a new leadership.
The RITE or RICE of Baptism!
Last week I preached on how we need to be the LIGHT for Christ and we must keep our Baptism light burning brightly! This week, the feast of Christ's baptism - I want to continue on that theme - Keep our light burning!
Let me begin with a story! Johnny Moses, from the Nootka Indian tribe, told the story of what happened in his tribe when the first British missionaries tried to take over and convert the Indians back in the 1800s. It took the priest years to learn the language. And when he did, he began to preach about the Good News! He told our people about hell. No one knew what hell was. They asked the priest where hell was, and he told them it was the place where bad people went. Well, our elders told the priest that our ancestors had never given us directions to hell, so none of us had ever been there. Then the priest told us that he would baptize us and that we would have to go to confession once a week and eat fish on Friday.
There was a very old man in our village. The priest baptized him and named him Anthony. The priest told Anthony that he would have to go to confession once a week and eat fish on Friday. Some time later, the people of the village said Anthony was not going to confession. So the priest went to see him. It was a Friday. When he found Anthony, the old man was cooking deer meat.
The priest asked him why he was eating deer meat, and Anthony told the priest that he was a very old man, and that he had shot the deer with his bow and arrow. He told the priest that although he was very sick, he dragged the deer to the river. There, he baptized the deer. And named him Fish in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now my dear friends, how often you and I we do the same thing - baptize our problem and remam them to make it looks good? Quite often! We have turn off the light of our baptism. An atheist said, "If Christians are the light of the world, somebody has forgotten to turn the switch on." Now it is time that we turn on the switch!
I came from the culture that every meal must have rice! Even the baptismJ Have you ever heard some Asians call it the "rice" of baptism rather the RITE of baptism! Though the connection between baptism and rice is altogether accidental, one can use it as a memory aid for the meaning of baptism.
The meaning of baptism can be found in the four letters of the word RICE. R stands for Rebirth. In baptism we are born again by water and the Holy Spirit. We are cleansed from original sin and become sons and daughters of God in a special way. I stands for Initiation. At baptism we are initiated or admitted into full membership in the church, the community of the children of God in the world. C is for Consecration. In baptism we consecrate and dedicate ourselves to seek and to spread the kingdom of God. We commit ourselves to be servants of God, to do God's will and serve God with our whole lives. And E is for Empowerment. At baptism the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and empowers us, equips us, gives us the moral strength to say no to evil and to live as God's children that we have become.
These four effects of baptism help us to be doers for Christ. But there is one problem did Jesus need to be baptized. Wow, Jesus is telling us that we must first direct our attention to our own personal lives with little ceremony and less pomp. We must cleanse ourselves with rough brown laundry soap in clean waters as He did. Then and only then can we properly address ourselves to the many human problems. Every reformation must first begin in one's own home and with oneself. It must be done as simply and quickly as possible.
It was St Paul who told us that "He was like unto us in all things except sin." And yet that sinless Christ took it upon Himself to enter the waters and wash Himself before He set out to reform anyone else. Can anyone of us do less?
The Teacher is a doer, not a talker. He wants action, not pious platitudes or vague resolutions. We read that soon after Jesus' baptism, John was arrested and the Kingdom of God movement needed a new leadership. When Jesus heard it he went up and took on the task, in this way implementing the commitment he made at his baptism to promote the kingdom of God. We can see that for Jesus baptism was not just a question of what he could receive but very much a question of what he could contribute to the cause of the kingdom of God on earth. John F. Kennedy's saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you, rather ask what you can do for your country" can also be applied to our relationship with God and the Church.
What are we doing, each one of us, to promote the kingdom of God? Are we ready to consecrate and dedicate ourselves wholly to the service of the kingdom of God just as Jesus did? If not, what are we doing to support those who have consecrated themselves to doing this work in the name of us all? My dear friends, we need to live our lives in the LIGHT of our baptism so that at the end of our life a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved sons and daughters; with you I am well pleased."
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong