Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

 Today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord seems notable not only for what it shows -- Jesus taking his first public adult action to start his ministry), but for what it does not show: how Jesus prepared himself to begin his public ministry.

And how did Jesus prepare for his public ministry? Not by spending years in the Temple studying the Scriptures. Not by extensive debate prep. Not by military training. Not by physical conditioning (à la the Rocky training montage). Rather, he spends the first thirty years of his life at home, quietly serving and loving his family and his neighbors. We know that the people of Nazareth were not necessarily intellectual equals for Jesus, as seen by his reception when he goes back and preaches openly in the synagogue. It's not noted in the Gospels that any of the apostles came from Nazareth, or were his relatives, so he doesn't even seem to have made such close and loyal friendships that his hometown comrades would become trusted partners in his work. 

As God Himself made man, this is the example that he wants to give, the way that he wants us to think of him. Clearly Jesus knew and studied the scriptures with love and deep scholarly understanding, but he wasn't learning them as tools of evangelization, or with an eye to owning the Romans. His religion was not a weapon to fight the dominant Greek culture. His later conversation with a scribe shortly before his death reveals what he learned in his private life of preparation in Nazareth:

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Mark 12:28-34)

To love your neighbor as yourself. That is what Jesus did in his quiet life in Nazareth to prepare himself for the labor of his public ministry. He loved, not his conceptual neighbor, but the real physical people around him, no matter their intellectual or moral shortcomings. He was not a citizen of the world but a citizen of Nazareth. And he loved his neighbors as he loved himself, and with him the Father was well-pleased.

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