January 12, 2020, Baptism of the Lord and First Sunday of the Epiphany. A reflection on Matthew 3:13-17
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (v15)
Today is the Sunday of the Baptism of Jesus. It is placed within the season of epiphany which is described to be the manifestation or the introduction of Jesus to be the King, the messiah, the anointed one. We should be reminded that on the day of the epiphany three wise men from the east visited and pay tribute to the child born king.
In the mainline churches and even in the para-churches which are sprouting all around, the baptism of Jesus has become the basis for their baptism that has been practiced in the church and serves as the entrance to the church or the initiation for membership in the church.
If we follow the account of Matthew, we will find out that the story next to this baptism of Jesus is the story about Jesus being tested by the devil in the wilderness and then Jesus began preaching in the time when He knew that John was imprisoned. Therefore, Jesus preached and began His ministry after His baptism with John and after John’s ministry ended or have been put to end because he was in prison. It was followed by stories of the calling of the first disciples and a healing of the sick.
In the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) it is said in the Articles of Religion to be, “Baptism is necessary for salvation. It signifies and confers grace, cleansing from original sin as well as actual sin previously committed; makes us children of God and heirs of everlasting life. It effects our entrance into the Church of God. It is administered with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
It should be noted that baptism is necessary for salvation. The IFI further states that “Salvation is obtained only through a vital faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as Lord and Saviour. This faith should manifest itself in good works.” In my informal discussion with The Revd Canon Dwight dela Torre of St. John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong, he clarified that ‘vital’ faith should be understood in its root word ‘vita’ which means life. Therefore, vital faith could mean lived faith or living faith. It is something that is being lived out or expressed. Thus, manifesting this faith as the teaching of the church puts it would mean the good works as a result of.
Modelled by Jesus therefore, each Christian is a minister – a worker in the field by virtue of our baptism. Like Jesus, the effect of our baptism makes us to be preaching and ministering to the people. We should be moved to live out the faith. But how? What could be the good works? How do good works look like?
Unfortunately, many people are actually doing nothing and they claim of doing the good works. They thought that living out the faith and doing good works is fulfilled by attending masses every Sunday or regularly or offering the tithes, donating money to the church projects, attending bible studies and seminars, sending or accompanying the children in the church and church activities, bringing flowers to the church and spending for the new clothing for their favorite image or icon or statue of saints or of Jesus like that of the Nazareno and then idolatrously kissing them dependently expect for miracles and processioning them for a mere show of religiosity, cleaning the church, singing and serving as choir member, becoming an ordained ministers and many other ‘churchy’ things. But No! No, these are not the good works! These are only the basic things and poor expressions of religiosity that we do as members of the church but not yet the lived faith.
A lived faith that leads to salvation is when like Jesus, we do arousing of the people by questioning the corrupt and unrepentant leaders of the land like the authority of King Herod and criticizing the leaders and teachers of the church and of the law like what was done to the Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees. By organizing the poor and struggling people like Jesus organizing the band of apostles and other disciples from the fishermen, the anti-Roman empire people like the zealots, the deprived and vilified to be sinners and enemies of the public like the tax collectors. More importantly mobilizing the people like those Jesus had organized to go with him inside the city of Jerusalem on the day that we now called the triumphal entry to which they remembered their freedom from the bondage in Egypt and shouted and sang the themes of liberation for their present context. This triggered the Sanhedrin to plan to silence Him. It is living out by connecting, working and even dying for the good of the majority of the suffering people of God then and the now – our own context.
You? Have you already lived out your faith as the effect of your baptism?
Until next for the second Sunday of Epiphany.