Luke 3:15-16; 21-22, The Baptism of the Lord
When you “consecrate” something, the idea is to take that something and set it apart from similar things because you would like it to serve a different purpose. To consecrate something is to make it, well, “special,” because now, the purpose it serves is, say, bigger or more important or nobler. When you consecrate a church building, for example, it begins to serve a purpose that’s bigger, or more important, or nobler than what a usual building serves. When you consecrate a candle, you bring it beyond being merely a giver of light. It now becomes a more profound sign: the presence of God. When you consecrate bread & wine, they’re now set apart from the usual food and drink. They gain a more encompassing meaning, serve a bigger nobler, supernatural purpose. In other words, anything we consecrate we separate, we set aside, we take out of its usual purpose, such that a church, a candle, bread and wine, are no longer merely building, merely light, or merely food and drink.
On the plane to Davao last week, I was seat mates with a very cheerful 45-year-old father travelling with his wife and their only son. The son, I noticed, was special. “He has Down Syndrome,” the smiling man told me. “But we noticed he wasn’t learning how to talk despite being 11 years old. Our doctor recently diagnosed him with severe autism.” Imagine that. Down Syndrome with severe autism. He had very thick glasses, too. So, he walked only with the closest assistance. The lifetime of caregiving the child will need from his parents is mind boggling. But this father beside me, was incredibly cheerful. Reaching Davao, I told him, “Your son is making you and your wife holy, isn’t he?” I meant it. By taking care of a very special child, he and his wife would be made holy, “consecrated,” even without the “power” of a bishop or a priest.
When we’re consecrated, we make a critical, even painful departure from our own personal world, a world where we otherwise feel greater comfort, and exercise more freedom; where our choices affect ourselves alone, and our satisfaction mostly self-directed. We relinquish all that when we’re consecrated for something or, more importantly, to someone. But most of all, in consecration, we take upon ourselves lifelong responsibility over another person and a relationship. Once consecrated, we start walking a different path, our future takes on a different trajectory. We reach a point of no return because our destiny has changed—a supposedly bigger, nobler, even supernatural destiny. And, you know, that’s precisely what 11-year-old Gabriel, is doing to his parents. Gabriel’s presence consecrates his dad and mom; makes them depart from their comfort zones and personal freedoms, commits them to a greater responsibility. Their destiny is changed from some “thing” or some “where” to someone. Thus, Gabriel’s parents, at least in my book, they become that much nobler and more supernatural. In a word, holy.
John was right. Jesus didn’t have to be baptized. He was Son of God! But would Jesus have it any other way? No. See, sisters and brothers, many Catholics still fail to realize the incredibly scandalous implications of the Incarnation—God becoming really human. John himself was scandalized that the Son of God should ask to receive the baptism of repentance, to come down waist-deep into the murky waters of the Jordan where sinners fell in line. But that’s the Incarnation. That’s the kind of scandalous God-made-human we say we love and worship; an already holy man who chooses to still be baptized anyway, to make that radical departure typical of consecrated life. Jesus leaves behind what would’ve been an otherwise comfortable life of the usual deities of his day. He abandons his “divine pedigree.” He forsakes the perks of living only for himself, and shirks the usual glorification of rabbis, prophets, and wonder-workers. Instead, from that warm and cushy zone Jesus departs. He comes down to where we all fall in line, waist-deep in the murk and mire of our own making. He joins us here; and not only that, he makes us and our salvation his very own destiny. “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.” Now baptized and consecrated, Jesus would live entirely for others; the suffering, especially, the hurting, the offenders, the pinandidirian, the iniiwasan, the tinatakwil.
But, Fr. Arnel, Jesus is holy because he is divine, right? Yes, Jesus is holy because he is God’s divine Son, sure. But he is holy also because, well, what would you call someone who continues to run after people to do them good despite their turning away and doing bad? What would you call someone who repays people’s infidelities with faithfulness, someone who deals grace to the generous, yes, but also to the greedy; who lavishes pardon on repeat-offenders; who frees those who self-imprison? What would you call a person who finally dies for people who live only for themselves? Banal. Consecrated. Baptized.
You and I are Jesus’ Gabriels today; incredibly helpless left on our own, needing all the leading and the caring; high-maintenance, given to tantrums, implacable. But for some crazy reason only Jesus knows, how irresistibly lovable we are to him for him to come waist-deep with us and to consecrate us. After his baptism in the Jordan, he probably heard his Father say every day, “These are my beloved children, anak. With them, I am pleased. Consecrate them and make them holy.”
*Image from the Internet