First day at “Taking the Next Step”, a vocations conference in St Chad’s College Durham. 21 of us (all different ages and from different places) plus 3 priests staying throughout, and 3 more coming and going, with the Bishop of Jarrow visiting us on Sunday.
After an hour of registering and meeting each other we sat down for a lecture from Fr Joe Cassidy (of Montreal) on Christology. An intense conference from the very beginning, as promised! He challenged us with questions that many of us had not really thought of before. For example, why did Jesus get baptised? First of all we need to call to mind that the Gospels hold different accounts of the event…
Matthew 3:16-17 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’
Mark 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Luke 3:21-22 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
The Gospel of Matthew describes that as Jesus lifted his head from the water God’s voice announced to all present that Jesus was his Son with whom he was pleased. The Gospel of Mark describes that God spoke directly to Jesus. The Gospel of Luke takes this personal communication further, seeming to tell that God spoke to Jesus in prayer some time after the baptism when he was alone.
Fr Joe described that this baptism appears to him to be a sort of conversion experience for Jesus (being immediately faced with questions in the “desert”). Jesus, like us, needed intimacy with God the Parent. The Church of England holds that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. As Jesus’ relationship with God was Real and not a compulsion (spending forty days – not forty holy seconds – in the wilderness getting past Satan, the personification of struggles) so ours must be with God.
Lots to think about from Fr Joe as he focused on the human person of Jesus Christ, and we then headed over to the chapel for a very smoky Eucharist. I’ve never seen so much incense in all my life… but apart from the slightly eye-watering atmosphere and the rather more regular standing up and bowing that the priests and about half of the ordinands around me took part in, it was a pleasant enough Eucharist… hopefully a bit less incense tomorrow please Lord…