06 January 2006

The Son is life...

Christmas Weekday 6: I John 5.5-13 and Mark 1.7-11
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation: Serra Club

We are given eternal life. Given eternal life in Christ.

The prophetic witness of John the Baptist is done. His job as herald is over. Now he plunges the Lord in the River Jordan and stands back. He steps back for the Messiah. Coming out of the water of the Jordan, Jesus the man is revealed by God to be His Son, the Christ. Having waited for, longed for, the arrival of His Anointed One, heard of his imminent arrival, his salvific ministry, anticipated the miraculous works of his hands and the revelations of his wisdom—finally, the Christ is revealed!

Promised by the prophets, preached by the temple priests, and announced by the Baptist, Christ is washed in the water of baptism, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and commissioned, charged by his Father to be His beloved Son, the One Who will suffer, die, and rise again for our sakes. His is an office, a role, a part to play, but his is also a ministry, a vocation, and a destiny. His work among us and for us is the preaching of the Good News, the revelation that we do not have to live apart from God, we are not condemned to be forever separated from our Father. And to be clear: the Christ is not just a man who preaches a message. He is the message. The message of salvation to us is a person, not an idea, not an ideology, not a mystical system, or a religious routine but a Person, the Person of God Himself for us.

Ask the question this way: what precisely is revealed at Jesus’ baptism? Look at the narrative and you will read that the revelation is made to Jesus directly not to those in attendance. Coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn open and the voice from heaven spoke to him: “You are my beloved Son…” Of course, we read this revelation now and know that Jesus is the Christ, but the revelation itself then was to Jesus, not those watching, not us.

This is significant because we are called to a faith rooted in witness first; that is, we are asked by God to believe the power and truth of His revelation of the Christ not by reason of direct, personal experience but by witness, by the telling of the revelation to us by others. And this was possible back then only after Jesus reveals himself through his public ministry. It is possible for us now because we have the scriptural and apostolic testimony, whole and entire, standing witness to us. And that witness is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, given to us, for us, so that we might have eternal life in him.

In his letter this morning, John couldn’t be clearer: “Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself…” We are called upon to believe in the Son Himself, to trust, to have faith in the Christ revealed to us by the Father, and to live as testimonies ourselves, to have in us, whole and entire, the deposit of faith that is Jesus Christ. We dwell in the Spirit, being daily in the presence of God, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.”

To live as testimony, to be a revelation of Christ, a witness to his gift of eternal life is to be like Christ, to be holy as he is holy, righteous as he is righteous—obedient to the Father, generous in sacrifice, merciful in judgment, resistant to temptation, hopeful and not despairing, faultlessly forgiving of sin, grounded in prayer, and always, always willing to speak the truth in love.

Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?


  1. Nobody Special7:59 PM

    Dear Father Philip:

    "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."

    It seems to me that this saying points to the sacrament of Penance. To cleanse the soul that it be a fit place for God to reside. What do you think?

    Thank you, Father!!!

  2. It can certainly be taken to mean that. I think with the larger context--John the Baptist, Advent, etc.--the phrase is more fully taken to mean that we are to clear away anything that presents itself as an obstacle to the Lord, anything that stands in the way of His coming into the world, into our lives. That would certainly include the good use of the sacrament of confession! It would also include obstacles that are not per se sins. For example, ways of thinking about the faith that somehow diminish the vibrancy of the Truth, etc.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Fr. Philip, OP

  3. Anonymous11:34 PM

    I assume that preciously should be precisely...correct?

    Forgive the compusive proofreading; it's what I always do when I'm really trying to pay attention--and your proclamation here commands my attention. Thank you for once again turning my eyes to the Light!

  4. YIKES! Yes, it should be "precisely." I am the poster person for Adult Dyslexia!

    Thanks. And I've corrected it.

    Fr. Philip

  5. Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to following your blog. Please consider a broader perspective on what a life of testimony is. Take a look at
    and let me know your thoughts.