Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord

Ignatian Spirituality: Set the World Ablaze

The Baptism of the Lord
January 10, 2016
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 104; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

            The cosmic events of the baptismal scene make it a memorable scriptural favorite of many Christians. The people are waiting to hear the Baptist’s words who preaches in staggering humility; he politely declines honors and accolades because he is appointed to testify; he keeps people on notice because the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, not with water. Then, after Jesus is baptized, the heavens open up, the Spirit descends in bodily form, not a dove, but like one, and then a voice from heaven affirms Jesus. Something new is beginning. A remarkable divine event is plainly seen by many.

            While the baptismal events are striking, they pale in comparison to its meaning, and Titus tells us what is really happening. The grace of God appears so that we are all saved and are able to help others come to salvation. God gives of himself to deliver us from lawlessness. As we pay attention to the tone and attitude, we learn that the kindness and generous love of God appears entirely due to mercy so we may be justified by grace and become heirs to eternal life. The baptism was not to inaugurate the ministry of Jesus; it was to communicate to us that we are loved by God the same way God loves Jesus.

            The church then needs to always communicate this love to the faithful because many people are hurting from the grief and despair of daily life. The prophet Isaiah knows this when he speaks on behalf of God, “Comfort, give comfort to my people.” Primarily, Isaiah says we need our church to console us and the Gospel tells us the church needs to affirm us by saying, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” The church must do its best to give each person a direct experience of Jesus Christ, not a direct experience of church. The church must be there to integrate a person who has an experience of Jesus into the larger community of faith.

            Church has to move our hearts and minds to a deeper affective relationship. Without a personal friendship with Jesus, our faith cannot grow and cannot find meaning in the world. We have to become companions of Jesus who wants to treat us with great kindness and generous love. Then, we pass on what we have received. Perhaps a reason church membership declines in some areas is that we are not telling our stories of love and inclusion to those who need to hear it. Unexpressed faith doesn’t make sense. Even God had to share his joy will God’s most prized possession, Jesus of Nazareth, who shared it with us.

The Christmas season that just ended is a story of something miraculous that happens first in private. Mary and Joseph bring a son into the world, at first only the farm animals know about it, then the shepherds come, then they tell others. Eventually, the magi come to know of the star and then experience the divinity nestled into humanity. The good news of the birth of Jesus emanates outward with each new telling of the story. Christmas is about sharing the story of Jesus; the Baptism of the Lord is about our sharing with each other our own personal stories of the Lord.  From this point forward, it is up to us to keep the message going forth. Tell your faith story to a new person.

Think this week about how you need your relationship with Jesus to become more personal. What do you need to do to let this friendship deepen? How can you be dipped into the waters again so that you are brought to new life in Christ? This is what the church is intending to do for us. Only Jesus can provide our deepest comfort and give our deepest affirmation and encouragement. You deserve to know him better. Give yourself over to the person of Jesus so that he can say to you, “Son, daughter, you are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: 
·      Monday: (1 Samuel 1) Elkanah’s wife Hannah was grieved because she was barren, but his other wife Peninnah would taunt her. She wept and refused to eat.
·      Tuesday: (1 Samuel 1) When Elkanah had relations with his wife, Hannah, she conceived and bore a son called Samuel, since she had asked the Lord for him.
·      Wednesday: (1 Samuel 3) Young Samuel received instruction from Eli when the Lord called him three times. Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”        
·      Thursday: (1 Samuel 4) The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel. Thirty thousand soldiers and the ark of God were captured. Many Israelites died.
·      Friday (1 Samuel 8) The people wanted a king, but Samuel dissented, but they persisted. The Lord said, “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”
·      Saturday (1 John 9) When Samuel met Saul, he anointed him as the governor of the Lord’s people.

·      Monday: (Mark 1) Jesus proclaimed, “This is the time of fulfillment.” Then we called the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, saying, “Come after me. I will make you fishers of men.”
·      Tuesday: (Mark 1) Jesus came to Capernaum’s synagogue when a man with an unclean spirit cried out, “What have you do to with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”
·      Wednesday (Mark 1) Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law. All the townspeople brought him their sick. He said, “Let us go on to the nearby villages so I may preach there also.”
·      Thursday (Mark 1) A leper approached Jesus for healing. It was impossible now for Jesus to enter a town openly because he was ritually unclean.
·      Friday (Luke 5) A paralytic was lowered into the house where Jesus preached. He forgave his sins, but to answer his critics, he also healed the man.    
·      Saturday (Mark 2) Jesus saw Levi at the customs post and said, “Follow me.” His critics said, “He eats with tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus replied, “The sick need a physician, not the healthy.”

Saints of the Week

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.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jan. 10, 1581: Queen Elizabeth signed the fifth Penal Statute in England inflicting heavy fines and imprisonment on all who harbored Jesuits and Seminary priests.
·      Jan 10, 1567. Two Jesuits arrived in Havana, Cuba, as a base for evangelization.
·      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.