Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Baptism of the Lord

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Baptism of the Lord
January 11, 2015
Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12; 1 John 5:1-9; Mark 1:7-11

John the Baptist rushes onto the scene at the opening of Mark’s Gospel. He is a larger-than-life figure who is visited by dignitaries far and wide. His counter-cultural ways capture the imagination of many people who want to come closer to God, but from the start he tells them, “I am only a tiny voice in wilderness. I am not the one you seek. There is one among you who is stronger than I am. Listen to him because he will baptize by the Holy Spirit. This indeed happens in the River Jordan where the heavens are ripped open and the Spirit gently descends upon the one God has chosen – Jesus of Nazareth – and blesses his life. To those gathered, the evidence is clear. John may now move aside so that Jesus may uniquely demonstrate the love of God to us. When everything settles down, all we can see is Jesus standing before us as the most important person in our life.

The image of Jesus standing at the doors of the church beckoning us to come to him is a helpful image to keep in the forefront of our minds as we are called to worship each week. He is gazing out onto the horizon with the hopes of seeing you approaching, and he is satisfied when you walk through those doors. All he wants is that you show up to be with him. He just wants you to come. He is not asking that you leave your baggage outside, but to bring it inside and to turn it over to him so he can make your load lighter. He is not asking that you leave your stuff behind, but to be with him so he can look at it with you. He knows that we can come to church and not find him because we are preoccupied with our own concerns. He wants you to put your anxieties down for a minute so you can meet the one who seek.

Isaiah’s words echo the sentiment of the longing Jesus has for you. Come! It does not matter if you have money or not. Jesus will satisfy what you need. Come. Rest with him, but also listen to him, because to accept his tender words of comfort will mean life. We have to do what might not come natural to us – to recognize who Jesus is before us, to recognize who we are before him, and to heed his words and then submit our will to him. We do not like to give up control, but doing so frees us up to take care of other pressing issues that concern our salvation. We hang on to too many temporary dramas because we are in a contest of wills. It is perfectly fine to admit powerlessness and then to seek the advice of Jesus who will guide our next steps. Our lack of trust makes it harder to turn our lives over to his good graces. Give it a shot. Let go of those anxieties to which you cling. Your life will be richer when your arms are no longer full. You will be able to grasp onto those things that bring your relief, joy, and greater comfort. Sing that famous song from “Frozen” at the top of your lungs: Let it go. Just let it go. Jesus is there to free you from whatever shackles you.

It is our duty to let go of what is in the past because we received missions from Jesus when we were baptized. We cannot move forward if we hold onto memories that keep us reliving the past. We have to remember the Lord’s words spoken in Isaiah’s reading: “My word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” The road is much smoother for us when we cooperate with the grace of Jesus than to bump against it and put on the brakes. When we submit, we find that we glide through life and we get carried with the wind. We sense the liberating effects of being carried by the hands of the one who has positive, guiding control, and he uses his authority for our well-being.

The road of discipleship has its many challenges, but we are called to walk with Jesus on his journey to the cross. We are to observe, listen, learn, and imitate his ways, and he simply wants us to be with him on his journey. Will you come? This is the day he begins his public ministry. He has to go forward. Will you join him? He does not guarantee it will be easy, but he wants to do this together. It will make it easier for him. Come. All you who are thirsty, come! You who have no money, come! Come without paying; come without cost. The journey can sometimes be lonely. Come. Let’s do this together.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:
Monday: (Hebrews 1) In the past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets. Today, God speaks,” You are my Son; this day I have begotten you.”
Tuesday: (Hebrews 2) God chosen a man to make salvation known and it was to be done through suffering. Because of his fidelity, God crowned him with glory and honor.
Wednesday: (Hebrews 2) Jesus helped the descendants of Abraham; therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could become a merciful and faithful high priest to expiate the sins of the people.
Thursday: (Hebrews 3) Take care that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart so as to forsake the living God.
Friday: (Hebrews 4) Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains. Others have heard it before but they were not united in faith.  
Saturday: (Hebrews 4) The word of God is living and effective, sharper than a two-edged sword, penetrating between soul and spirit and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Monday: (Mark 1) After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God. “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Tuesday: (Mark 1) When Jesus came to Capernaum and entered the synagogue, the people were astonished with his teachings. A man with an unclean spirit shrieked, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are.”
Wednesday: (Mark 1) On leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was cured of a fever. At dusk, people from all over brought their sick to Jesus to be cured.
Thursday: (Mark 1) Jesus encountered a leper who begged him to heal him. Afterwards, the man had to show himself to the priest, but Jesus had to stay outside of towns to do his work and to proclaim the gospel.
Friday: (Mark 2) Jesus cured many in Capernaum. They brought in a paralytic and lowered him into the house on a mat. Jesus forgave his sins and then healed him.
Saturday: (Mark 2) Jesus went out along the sea when he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, sitting at the customs post. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners.

Saints of the Week

January 11: The Baptism of the Lord is recounted in Mark’s Gospel where the baptism of water is to be replaced by a baptism of fire. God confirms the person of Jesus when he rises from the water and a dove alights on his head. God is well pleased.

January 14: Hilary, bishop and doctor (315-367), was born in Gaul and received the faith as an adult. He was made bishop of Poitiers and defended the church against the Arian heresy. He was exiled to the Eastern Church where his orthodox rigidity made him too much to handle so the emperor accepted him back.

January 17: Anthony, Abbot (251-356), was a wealthy Egyptian who gave away his inheritance to become a hermit. Many people sought him out for his holiness and asceticism. After many years in solitude, he formed the first Christian monastic community. Since he was revered, he went to Alexandria to encourage the persecuted Christians. He met Athanasius and helped him fight Arianism.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan 11, 1573. At Milan, St Charles Borromeo founded a college (the Brera) and placed it under the care of the Society.
·      Jan 12, 1544. Xavier wrote a long letter on his apostolic labors, saying he wished to visit all the universities of Europe in search of laborers for our Lord's vineyard. The letter was widely circulated and very influential.
·      Jan 13, 1547. At the Council of Trent, Fr. James Laynez, as a papal theologian, defended the Catholic doctrine on the sacraments in a learned three-hour discourse.
·      Jan 14, 1989. The death of John Ford SJ, moral theologian and teacher at Weston College and Boston College. He served on the papal commission on birth control.
·      Jan 15, 1955. The death of Daniel Lord SJ, popular writer, national director of the Sodality, founder of the Summer School of Catholic Action, and editor of The Queen's Work.
·      Jan 16, 1656. At Meliapore, the death of Fr. Robert de Nobili, nephew of Cardinal Bellarmine. Sent to the Madura mission, he learned to speak three languages and for 45 years labored among the high caste Brahmins.

·      Jan 17, 1890. Benedict Sestini died. He was an astronomer, editor, architect, mathematician, and teacher at Woodstock College.

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