Thursday, 8 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo and the Baptism of Christ

On Wednesday, several writers and cartoonists were murdered in their office in Paris. Predictable voices have risen from the latte-sipping sets blaming 'religion' as a whole for the problems of the world. The gunmen did not follow 'religion,' though: they followed religion. Religions are different, and there is no more excuse for tarring us all with the same brush as for blaming all Muslims for the actions of a fundamentalist minority. The liberal press will never make the latter assertion, but they are quite happy to make the former, and we should be wary of it. 

The feast of the Baptism of the Lord shows a God quite different from the imagined bogeyman of Guardian 'Religion.' The Christian God is not a god, but the God He has revealed Himself to be, and this Sunday's feast is one of the most profound revelations of His nature. 

First, as Jesus is baptised, the Father's voice proclaims Him Son and sends the Holy Spirit upon Him. God is revealed as Trinity, the God of love who draws us by his threeness into His unity, making us His adopted children by sending Christ as our brother. 

Second, as Jesus descends into the waters, He sanctifies the Creation He has made. Divinity is mixed with creation as wine is mixed with water at the Mass, and as the Paschal Candle is dipped into the font to bless it on Easter Eve. He is a God who has made creation fundamentally good, not evil, and continues His work of blessing it still. 

Thirdly, Jesus is proclaimed the Lamb of God, sacrificial victim for our sins. As He is immersed, He sees the heavens tear open, as the veil of the Temple will tear at His Crucifixion. Later, He will refer to His Crucifixion as 'Baptism,' and His disciples will not understand why. With hindsight, we do understand: His sacrifice tears the veil between heaven and earth, bringing us forgiveness of sins and union with the Father for eternity. Being baptised ourselves, we receive the fruits of this sacrifice at the altar whenever we make Communion. 

This is the God we worship: not a God who calls us to kill those who mock us, but who dies for our sake. Pray for the victims of the attack, for their families, for Muslims as they face the repercussions, and even for the killers themselves - for that is what our religion commands us to do.

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