Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2019
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 104; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The Baptism of the Lord ushers in the official ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and it marks a moment in which he was publicly revealed to be specially loved Son of God. The reading from Isaiah gives us a clue of what is included in his ministry: Jesus will comfort the people and will assert that none of our sins will be held against us; the pathway to God’s heart will be made clear and we will be reunited with our God who cares for us like a loving parent; he will nourish and protect all people of goodwill from those who intend harm. That is no small mission.

In his baptism: Jesus surrenders himself to God and God affirms his choice. We do not like the idea of surrendering because we are trained to compete, to win, or to at least to strive, and we think of surrendering as failure or defeat. This is not the type of surrendering that Jesus is doing because he is not placing himself in a lesser-than role to God. Just the opposite, his surrendering allows him to be more of himself and to know that God’s glory will work through his human actions.

In our surrendering to God, we never lose our identity or freewill. If anything, our surrendering empowers us to act more boldly. Surrendering to Jesus means to focus on developing our friendship with him. I often hear people say, “I want to do God’s will. I want to do what Jesus would do.” It is right to say that we are to imitate Jesus, but in order to do that, we have to read Scripture again to see how he responded to laws and conflicts.

Some people will be kind to people who regularly mistreat them because Jesus was a kind man and he would stay above the petty actions of others. After all, he said “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” Therefore, we should not mind that someone disrespects our boundaries because we do not want to make them feel bad or angry. Really? Do you think so? We have to reorder our thoughts. Jesus set clear boundaries. Jesus was a man who acted for greater social justice and helped each person see his or her inherent dignity. I think he would say to the person with poor manners, “Stop treating me this way. I cannot let you perpetuate bad behavior. I deserve to be treated better by you.” Jesus today is encouraging us to lovingly and authentically articulate our boundaries and expectations so that we can communicate the rules needed to live in freedom and harmony. He helps us to become our fuller selves who can speak clearly to respect our personal safety and by extension, take care of each other’s needs. His Spirit should give us the fortitude to set relationships right, even if it means a spouse, an in-law, or a friend retreats for a while to examine one’s attitudes. We can do it in loving ways but stop letting yourself be the victim or martyr for the sake of Christ. He probably did not ask you to do that.

 Surrendering to Christ means to we become more fully who we are. After St. Pauls’ conversion, his personality did not change; he did not relinquish his skills, education, or talent; he simply used them more fervently for his new understanding of who he was to Christ. He had to learn that he was partly wrong, and that Christ’s way forward was the better path. He stopped hurting people with whom he disagreed, and he worked on building up communities centered around Christ and his mission. What did he surrender? - his presumption to be right, his imposition of control onto others, his certitude, his stubbornness, and his attitude of superiority, and then he became fully alive to do the work Christ intended for him.

Our baptism and Ignatian spirituality teach us to surrender those parts of our life that are not conducive to God’s life in us, so that we can become fully alive in Christ. We become a better version of ourselves as a gift of living rightly. We become the person that Christ wants us to be. He doesn’t linger on our failings, unfulfilled hopes, and disappointments. He just wants to be a friend on our journey. Our baptism includes us in his mission to save souls and to help others live in happiness. We have a remarkable journey ahead and I want to go there with you. Do you want to come along?

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (Hebrews 1) In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe.

Tuesday: (Hebrews 2) It was fitting that Jesus, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make their leader to salvation perfect through suffering.

Wednesday: (Hebrews 2) Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus shared in them likewise, that through death he might destroy the one who has power of death.  

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, that none of you seem to have failed.   

Saturday (Hebrews 4) The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.

Monday: (Mark 1) After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee roclaiming the Gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel."

Tuesday: (Mark 1) Jesus came to Capernaum’s synagogue when an unclean spirit approached him. He rebuked the Spirit and demonstrated power over him.

Wednesday (Mark 1) Jesus entered the home of Simon and Andrew and cured Simon’s mother-in-law. The townspeople brought many people to him for healing.

Thursday (Mark 1) A leper begged Jesus to heal him. The leprosy left him and he was warned sternly not to make known the source of his healing.

Friday (Mark 2) Jesus returned home and his friends brought a paralytic for healing. He forgave his sins, but the authorities became angry so he also healed his paralysis.

Saturday (Mark 2) Jesus called Levi as a disciple. He was with other tax collectors and sinners, eating and drinking with them. I have come to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.  

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.

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 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.
·      Jan 18, 1615. The French Jesuits began a mission in Danang, Vietnam.
·      Jan 19, 1561. In South Africa, the baptism of the powerful King of Monomotapa, the king's mother, and 300 chiefs by Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira.

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