The Baptism of the Lord

Be a 100% Chinese Christian

First Reading (Is 55:1-11) : God is the source of life, His word must be carried out
Second Reading (1 Jn 5:1-9) : God the Father testified to Jesus
Gospel (Mk 1:7-11) : Jesus was baptized
Chinese Classics:“For perils on Perilous Beach I heaved and sighed; now on Lonely Sea I feel dreary and lonely. From time immemorial, is there any person who has lived and has not died? I’ll leave a loyalist name in history!”(1)

Just as he was coming out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mk 1:10-11)

Mark's gospel uses this incident as the prologue to the public life of Jesus. The voice coming from heaven is as if God the Father through the Holy Spirit formally witnesses to His only Son and introduces him to the world. John in his first epistle indicates that he believes Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father because he accepts that God has given this witness: “If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son” (1 Jn 5:9)

The Catholic church does not only teach her faithful to be good people and perform good actions. One who wishes to do good need not be a Catholic. In fact, we sometimes meet Catholics who are not that good. Basically, the Catholic church relates to the call of God the Father and Jesus. It is a revealed religion, coming from God with God as its centre and guide.

Jesus is THE man among humans, the fully human person most pleasing to God who carries out God's will in every instance. He is the model of what a human person should be and the exemplar of how we can respond totally to God's call. No one else can compare to Jesus as the perfect model of one who obeys God's will in every respect..

This perfect human being, or “a 100% human person” is first an Israelite, the perfect Israelite. It is in being the perfect Israelite that he becomes the perfect or 100% human being. There is actually no need for him to be baptized. As a matter of fact, when he approaches John the Baptizer for baptism, John said: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Mt 3:14). But Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness” (Mt 3:15) The phrase ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ tells us that Jesus is indeed a true and perfect Israelite. He follows meticulously his own cultural and religious traditions so long as they are reasonable, right and good.

Since baptism signifies repentance and conversion and Jesus is the exemplar of such, when he receives baptism from an ordinary person he shows us what repentance and conversion really mean. Hence he says later that he has come to complete the Law and not to abolish it. (Ref Mt, 5:17)

It is difficult to become a perfect Christian unless a person is first a perfect human being. And this means that each one is necessarily influenced in life by one's own culture, colour and nationality. Therefore if you ask me what is the relationship between being a human person, being a Chinese and being a Christian, I will say this: Being a Chinese is my point of departure. I become a Christian in order to become a 100% Chinese. As I try to be a 100% Chinese, I become a 100% human being and a Christian.

What must we do in order to become fully human and fully Chinese? Today's first reading from Isaiah tells us to go to the source, listen attentively and seek out the Lord. The Chinese Christian must become fully human in Christ and also become an open and trustworthy Chinese person according to God's will and plan.. Nevertheless, Isaiah has this to tell us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, declared Yahweh. For the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways.” (Is 55:8-9) Hence, we do not become a fully human Chinese person according to what we think, but according to the plan and thinking of God. This is what makes us a Christian, a Chinese Christian after God's plan.

Back in 1981, Pope John Paul II spoke to the Chinese people and especially to Chinese Christians: “If in your life you adhere to the Christian faith, and hold fast to your special Chinese traditional ethics, I have no doubt you will become outstanding Chinese Christians worthy of the name, enriching the entire Catholic church. I firmly believe that every Chinese Catholic is ready to help to contribute to the building up of China because a genuine and devout Christian is necessarily a good citizen”.

Wen Tian Xiang of the Sung Dynasty was fighting bravely and desperately to protect his country. When he passed Perilous Beach in Shansi, he couldn't help but think about the perils they had encountered both on the beach and in his country. When he was crossing the Lonely Sea in Guangdong, he reflected that in his life experiences and those of millions of other living creatures, they all shared the same loneliness and dreariness. That was why he uttered these lines, “For perils on Perilous Beach, I heaved and sighed; now on Lonely Sea I feel dreary and lonely. From time immemorial, is there a person who has lived and not died? I will leave a loyalist name in history”(1) We all must die. If we die for a noble cause or die with meaning, naturally we will receive the grace we requested. We will repay our country with loyalty and leave our name in history.

Wen Tian Xiang was not a Christian. But if Chinese Catholics take the words of Pope John Paul II seriously, each of them also will become another Wen Tian Xiang. Let us follow the example of Christ and become 100% human beings and 100% Chinese Christians.

(1)皇恐灘頭說皇恐,零丁洋裡嘆零丁;人生自古誰無死,留取丹心照汗青。