Holy Jordan

Red hot iron in the blacksmith fire by Miquel Llonch - Stocksy United

Here are more notes today from my talk on baptism.

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We are sanctified in baptism, made holy. What does holy mean? To be human in the divine image. To be a faithful prism of divine light. To be set apart for alignment with a divine purpose. Or, in its deepest essence, holy is anything akin to whatever-it-means-to-be-God. “You alone are holy” (Rev. 15:4). What is God above all? Love, but of a type fully perceptible only in the lifeless corpse of Jesus, Sacrament of divine self-emptying. Holiness therefore is such a love made perfect in us (1 Jn. 4:12). God is joy, the reverb of love. Joy is the infallible sign of God, a singular barometer of spirit-discernment. To become holy requires first being taken by love, then staying in love. Cruciform love, eleos. The kind Dostoyevsky speaks of in The Brothers Karamazov: “Love in action is harsh and dreadful compared to love in dreams.” Those seeking holiness don’t live to “go to heaven,” as some escape plan. Rather, the goal is to bring heaven and earth into close proximity, enacting a rescue plan (Mk. 1:15). “On earth as it is in heaven” is wherever God’s will is done, especially in Gethsemane. And God’s will is to keep his commandments, love being the perfection of them all (Rom. 13:8–10). Sanctification also means we really share in the divine life. Think here of the way a fetus in the womb shares all of her mother’s life, while remaining distinct. Symbiosis. Theology calls this sharing in divinity theosis, literally being “Godded.” Becoming God by grace in Christ, synergizing with the Spirit like iron placed in a fire that itself becomes fire. This is an esoteric, not exoteric mystery of faith, the mystery of all mysteries, meant to be guarded by modesty of language; best revered in silent contemplation.

Baptism reconciles us to God, one another, and all of creation. “Reconciliation” can be said to capture St. Paul’s whole sense of the entire work of Christ, and so the mission of the Church and of each Christian. “We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20). To reconcile is to take those who are divided, estranged, alienated, set-at-odds, and bring them together into a new and costly unity of love built on justice. Unity of God and men. These are utterly astonishing words in the ancient world: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups [Jew and Gentile] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Eph. 2:14). To reconcile the children of Babel, Jesus placed himself in the middle of a cosmic war and allowed himself to be torn to pieces, all the while while breathing pardon and peace on his enemies. “Making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20). Christians, therefore, are to never be aggressors in this cosmic war, but reconcilers who seek every opportunity to confront evil with good (Rom. 12:21), seek peace, promote understanding and plead for pardon. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry [diakonian] of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). Reconciliation begins in marriage and family, and then extends out into faith and civic communities. In a deeply divided and violent world, every work of God-breathed reconciliation unleashes an unstoppable butterfly-effect force for good.

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