Still in the midst of celebrating Theophany, it was difficult to see this Sunday’s Epistle Reading (Colossians 3:4-11) and Gospel Reading (Luke 17:12-19) outside of this context. In fact, St. Paul seems to be specifically refer to Baptism in verses 9-10:
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
The old nature refers to the reality that each of us is born into the fallen world. When we are Baptized, we die to this old nature and put on Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”).
We couldn’t discuss this passage without making mention of one of my personal favorite verses in Scripture (Colossians 3:11):
Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all.
I find myself quoting this often in context of discussions about equality (there is no more radical a statement of equality that this). Upon reflection, we realized that our current ethnic mishmash here in the U.S. is probably closer to the audience St. Paul was writing to — the Roman Empire — than we may imagine.
In terms of understanding the phrase “Christ is all, in all” we need to remember that as beings made in the image and likeness of God, we have a trinitarian existence. In other words, just as God is one in essence in three persons, so, too, are we of one essence and in many persons. Thus, when Christ took on our humanity, He affected all of humanity through our nature —Christ is all. Since we are also made in the image and likeness, Christ is also in all.
Following the theme of remembering Theophany, we recalled Christ’s first words after His baptism (read last week on the Sunday after Theophany), “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). When Christ told the ten lepers to present themselves to the priest (indicating that they were cleansed — the priest would confirm this and their re-integration into society), only one presented himself to the true High Priest — Christ Himself. In doing so he turned around (the literal meaning of repentance) — he repented and oriented himself to God. Being a Samaritan, he indicates that this action is possible for everyone (Christ is all, and in all). This act of repentance (and our participation in salvation) is confirmed by Christ’s words, “your faith has made you well.”