Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of the Lord: January 13, 2008

The Baptism Initiates the Public Ministry: Benedict XVI: “It formed part… of the apostolic preaching, as it constituted the starting point of a series of events and words on which the apostles were to give testimony (cf. Acts 1, 21-22; 10, 37-41).The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus’ public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.”[1]

The Mission of Jesus Christ: Preach

Isaiah, 61, 1-3: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God, to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Sion a diadem instead of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.”

Mark, 1. 38-40: “And Simon, and those who were with him, followed him. And they found him and said to him, ‘They are all seeking thee.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go into the neighboring villages and towns, that there also I may preach. For this is why I have come.’ And he was preaching in their synagogues, and throughout all Galilee, and casing out devils.”


Isaia, 49, 6-7: “It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth…When kings see you, they shall stand up, and princes shall prostrate themselves because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.”

Baptism Activates the Priesthood of Christ that Consists in Mediating between His Persona and the Father for us. “Mediation” = Gift of Self.

The First Act of Priesthood is to Evangelize: To Preach the Word:

Ratzinger: “What does it mean to ‘evangelize?’ What really happens when someone doest this? And just what is this Gospel? The Council could certainly have referred to the Gospels to establish the primacy of preaching. I have in mind here a short but significant episode from the beginning of Mark. Everyone was seeking out our Lord for his miraculous powers, but he goes off to a remote place to pray (Mark 1, 35-39); when he is pressed by ‘Simon and those who were with him,’ our Lord says, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages, so that I may preach there also, for this is what I have come out to do’ (1, 38). Jesus says that the purpose of his coming is to preach the Kingdom of God. Therefore this should also be the defining priority of all his ministers: they come out to proclaim the Kingdom, and that means, to make the living, powerful and ever-present God take first place in our lives.”[2]
This also means us: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (Jn. 20, 21).

Now, what is the Word to be preached? “Jesus does not convey a knowledge that is independent from his own person, as any teacher or storyteller would do. He is something different from, and more than, a Rabbi. As his preaching unfolds, it becomes every clearer that his parables refer to himself, that the Kingdom and his person belong together, that the Kingdom comes in his person. The decision that he demands is a decision about how one stands toward him, as with Peter, who said, ‘You are the Christ’ (Mk. 8, 29). Ultimately, the message of his preaching about the Kingdom of God turns out to be quite clearly Jesus’ own Paschal mystery, his destiny of death and resurrection.”

This, of course, solves an until-now, unresolved question: the oneness of the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. Ratzinger says: “We now understand that Jesus’ preaching can be called ‘sacramental’ in a deeper sense than we could have seen before. His word contains in itself the reality of the Incarnation and the theme of the Cross and the Resurrection. It is ‘deed/word/ in this very profound sense, instructing the Church in the mutual dependence of preaching and the Eucharist, and in the mutual dependence, as well, of preaching and an authentic, living witness….

“I would like to recall now an episode from the early days of Opus Dei, which illustrates the point. A young woman had the popportunity to listen for the first time to t talk given by Fr. Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. She was very curious to hear a famous opreacher. But after participating in a Mass he celebrated, whe no longer wanted to listien to a human orator. She recounted later that from that moment on, her only interest was to discover the word and will of God.

“The ministry of the word requires that eh priest share in the kenosis of Christ, in his ‘[increasing and decreasing..’ The fact the priest does not speak about himself, but bears the message of another, certainly does not mean that he is no personally involved, but precisely the opposite: it is a giving-away-of-the-self, and communion with him who is the Word of God in person. This Paschal structure of the ‘not-self’ that turns out to be the ‘true self’ after all, shows, in the last analysis, that the ministry of the Word reaches beyond all ‘functions’ tot penetrate t he priest’s very being, and presupposes that the priesthood is a sacrament.”

May it be added that “Priesthood” belongs to both laity and ministers under the rubric of two distinct sacraments: Baptism and Orders. Both laity and priest-ministers are priests of Jesus Christ – mediators, by the gift of self [priests of their own existence] – in irreducibly different ways. But as priests, both are the Word (“Ipse Christus”) that must be given, and this is the meaning of “apostolate.”

[1] Benedict XVI Angelus, January 7, 2007 (Zenit).
[2] J. Ratzinger, “The Ministry and Life of Priests,” October 24, 1995 during the International Symposium organized by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of Presbyterorum Ordinins.

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