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Contents: Volume 2 - The Baptism of the Lord
January 13 2019


 

The

BAPTISM

of

the Lord

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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1.

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The Baptism of the Lord 2019

Well, 2019 is here and the world still needs a Savior! Today's readings could very well have been written this week in a world still in anticipation of great things desperately needing to happen. How can this be, especially among us, Christian believers?

Jesus's Baptism happened just before his entry into official "ministry". Throughout his life and by his death and Resurrection, Jesus indeed "brought forth justice to the nations" and also brought light into the lives of "the blind, prisoners, and those who live in darkness". He did these things effectively and with the affirmation of the Father as revealed in today's Gospel.

Why then is there still so little apparent justice in the world arena? Why do we still yearn for the victory of justice in our homes and neighborhoods as well? I think part of the answer lies in our individual part in the new Covenant.

As followers of Jesus, we as Christian family, do many mighty things in Jesus's name. We do this collectively and individually and we usually do it quite well. What I see in myself, however, is often a lack of stamina, perhaps that sustaining power of the Holy Spirit and the fire that John the Baptist mentioned that Jesus had in such abundance.

In my opinion, being refreshed and revitalized by the Holy Spirit is there simply for the asking by prayer. So is the "fire" of Jesus's ministry which sparked some moments in my own ministry and perhaps in yours, too. Jesus was big on prayer and big into prayer, so......we need to pray!

As the grand and uplifting events of the Christmas Season give way to resulting lack of energy and the packing up of decorations, presents, and outward expression of "good will", let us not pack away the hope that is Jesus through prayer. Among all our good intentions and resolutions, let us include a re-commitment to embracing the "fire of His love" in our hearts so we, too, can go forth again to bring Jesus to today's needy in our families, communities, and the world. Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart once again (and re-energize me)!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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The Baptism of the Lord - January 13, 2019

Isaiah 42:1-4 6-7; Responsorial Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-38; Gospel Acclamation Mark 9:7; Luke 3:15-16 & 21-22

There often seems to be two attitudes in the annual cycle of readings in the liturgy of the Word. On the one side there are passages lamenting the events of life. There is pain and suffering; there is mourning and grieving; there is sickness and possession by evil spirits. On the other side there is a promise of peace and happiness; there are miracles of healing; there are raisings of the dead in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Christian gospels and letters. On this side of the equation there is brightness, hope, peace, plenty food, employment, drink, and rest. The dark side is about warfare, dishonesty, the wages of sin, and idolatry. On that dark side there is struggle, there is pain, there is death.

The schizophrenic duality opposes darkness, suffering, pain and death against light, happiness and health. What is the truth of human existence? Are we puppets dangling from God’s strings? Are we jerked around by a God whose anger is so inconsolable that it takes hyper-obedience by his Son who loves us to make amends? Does God will that we suffer in the vail of tears and accept that suffering so that we can make up for the times we make terrible choices? Is human history so filled with darkness that humanity’s only hope is to transition to another dimension where the light of God brings all events into perspective? Is suffering and pain something God wills for us? Is creation God’s arena in which we are meant to prove ourselves as his obedient servants and thus in some small way earn our way into a garden of Eden where he walks with us in a forever blissful existence? Such a negative attitude toward human life is contradicted in this Sunday’s readings. Such a negative attitude makes God a mean ogre and a cruel puppet master. Such a deity is not worthy of our admiration and our fealty.

A contemporary song-writer sings, "after a summer storm there comes a cool breeze." The storm is not the ultimate truth. It is the cleansing of dust and heat that comes with the rain. The passage from Isaiah is from the second segment of the book of Isaiah. It is the prophet speaking of the outcomes of the nation’s enslavement in Babylon. During the time of slavery in Babylon, there was a great awakening of the nation’s scholars and leadership. It was during this time of questioning, of wondering why God allowed this tragedy to touch his chosen people that the faith of the nation found a deeper meaning, a more complete understanding of God’s presence among them. Their fate was not a punishment of the puppet master jerking the strings of an unruly marionette. For those who studied and meditated on God’s efforts in their behalf over six hundred years, there was a new found understanding of purpose. It was during this period of captivity that the first five books (the Pentateuch) were written down using four distinct oral traditions. This prophet of the captivity period looks forward to the Messiah, the Anointed One. The image presented in this Sunday’s reading is contradictory to our vision of a great warrior. We often think and embrace military might, warfare, violence that forces "bad" people and nations into accepting our way of living, our values, and our domination. Sometimes we treat our kids this way. We should listen closely, read again in the quiet of our homes, and think about the words of Isaiah this Sunday.

"Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit: he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching."

How very contradictory is the prophecy of Isaiah to our usual and customary way of thinking! First, we think of justice in terms of a court of law. We think of justice as that which is handed out as punishment to law-breakers. No so in the Hebrew Scriptures. Justice in the context of God’s dealing with his people has nothing to do with punishment. It has everything to do with making certain that every living being has what it needs to FLOURISH! How different from our justice which depends on the compelling arguments of lawyers and judges whose decisions are derived from human logic. Such justice is not about what is needed for a living being to flourish. It is about right and wrong. If we give this some thought, what can be more right than that each living being has what is necessary for it to become all that it can possibly become?

A second way of thinking is to divide people and creation into two categories. Those persons and those events that are usable by us are considered good. Those persons and those events that are different from us or challenge our goals are evil. Humanity has from the beginning found that scapegoating is part of our thinking. Think of the narrative of the Fall in Genesis. Adam is asked, "Why did you disobey?" Adam points to Eve and throws in the Creator as the reason for the sin. "The woman you created gave me the apple and I ate it." Not only is Eve blamed but God is blamed for creating her. Then of course Eve can’t accept responsibility either and blames the serpent. And so begins the practice of judging others, creation, and even God on the basis of what I think is good for me. And so we continue to make the big mistake: we relive the sin of Adam and Eve.

We are accustomed to think that what pleases me is good and what challenges me is bad. We tend to attack what we find contradictory and different to our customs, our culture, and our comfort. But there is nothing in this Isaiah reading that speaks of violence. We are accustomed to thinking that might is right. In that judgment we are complicit in allowing the powerful to subjugate, to abuse, to rob, and to murder the weak. Even worse than the taking of things and what is necessary for flourishing, we steal the dignity and worth of persons. We take away God’s judgment of his creation of humanity when he says, "It is very good." We are so accustomed to the way of the world that we feel little shame in that theft.

According to the gospels, Jesus spent his adult life healing, making those thrive who were weak or addicted or suffering. He returned dignity and worth to the undignified and worth to the unworthy. He returned status to those rejected by society. His miracles weren’t magician’s sleight of hand calculated to amaze. Some think and teach that his miracles were to call attention to his divinity and Messiahship. More importantly, his healing and teaching removed from the suffering what prevented them from flourishing. The Messiah is the one who empowers us to accomplish what Jesus did in his ministry. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah and offers us a place in his ministry.

"I the Lord have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness."

There is nothing in Isaiah’s prophecy about crusades, about wars, about manipulation of peoples, or about power and wealth. Isaiah speaks about clear-eyed sight that discovers God’s hand present in all persons and in all events. This is about freedom to be more than a slave. It is about hope and a way of living that countermands those who worship power, wealth, or fame and influence. This hope is extended to ALL nations, not merely the nation that birthed and formed Isaiah!

Even our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday lacks mention of overcoming or of armies of conquerors. "The Lord will bless his people with peace." "Peace" in the psalms is not the absence of war or conflict. It is the peace of the Messiah in which the land is flowing with milk and honey. All peoples are welcome and encouraged to join in the banquet without consideration for power, wealth, influence or fame. Even the very littlest, the most ignorant, the most unsightly, the ones on the far fringes of society are welcomed and embraced as brothers and sisters of the one Father, the God and Creator of all.

It is interesting to note the difference in the Gospel Acclamation taken from Mark’s gospel quoting the Father’s statement to the crowd at Jesus’ baptism and Luke’s statement regarding the Father’s words. Mark (Mark 9:7) has God addressing John and/or the crowd witnessing the Baptism of Jesus. God announces; "This is my beloved son, listen to him." In Luke’s gospel (Luke 3:21-22), the Father speaks only to Jesus. "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased." So which is it? Which evangelist got it right?

Mark writes for the Romans and makes his focus in the Baptist of the Lord the beginning of his mission to the nations. He makes the voice from heaven reach out to those who came to John the Baptist for guidance and for hope in a crazy world. Luke focuses more on the humanity of Jesus and on the choices of Jesus. Jesus came to John to listen to his message of repentance. In Luke’s gospel we think of Jesus growing up as any child would. Luke’s gospel focuses on the childhood of Jesus while the others do not. So when it comes time for Jesus to begin his ministry to the nation and to the nations, Luke gives Jesus the Father’s endorsement of his change from carpenter to teacher and healer. We should keep in mind that after Jesus’ baptism, he goes out into the desert for forty days to commune with the Father --- and to be tempted to complete his mission using the methods of the world. Recall the three temptations: feed the people by making stones bread. Stones were abundant in Palestine. Resort to power to conquer, to force the message of God. Amazingly, Satan claims as his own all military and coercive power. And finally, amaze the people with feats of great magic. None of these tactics fit the message of the Messiah.

This Baptism of the Lord is for us a call to a change of attitude. As we advance in wisdom and age we tend to see our lives in a progressive movement toward the message of Jesus or as a progressive reduction of the dignity and worth with which we were created. Baptism is a choice for us as it was for Jesus. How have we progressed? How have we fallen prey to the ways of the world? It’s time, as we begin the cycle of ordered time, to again make our choice as to how we grow in our spiritual life. We have the freedom to choose our path.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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CALLED AND SENT: THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD C

There’s this young family man called ‘Steve’, who couldn't believe what he had just done. In the middle of the priest's homily, he suddenly left his wife and children in the pew and walked out. He felt so angry that he couldn't sit still a minute longer. But he had no idea what his anger was about. Rather than embarrass his family further, he walked home from Mass on his own.

That afternoon he talked the matter over with his wife Sue, but neither of them could work out why he felt so angry. So he made an appointment with his priest for the following Tuesday night. Fr Paul suggested: 'Tell me everything you remember about Sunday morning, starting with all you spoke to when you arrived at church, and everything you can remember about the Mass.' Steve outlined all the people he had spoken to, and what was said as best he could remember. But nothing stood out from the conversations which shed light on the source of his anger. He then made an accurate summary of the flow of the Mass up till the gospel. But he couldn't remember which gospel had been read and what it was about.

It's interesting,' Fr Paul said, 'how you remember well the first two readings, but haven't got a clue about the gospel. So, let me remind you.' The priest pulled a missal down from the shelf and read the gospel. As Steve heard the familiar words about John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, he became aware that he did remember hearing them on Sunday, but it was not till Fr Paul came to the last words of the text that he knew what his anger was about:

‘And a voice spoke from heaven, "You are my Son, the one whom I love; I am very pleased with you".'

' As a grown man that's what I always wanted to hear from my father,' Steve said bitterly, 'and now it's too late, because he's dead.' Tears came to his eyes as he let himself feel for the first time the deep hurt he had been carrying.

'Perhaps there’s something you can do about it,' Fr Paul replied. 'Let's pretend that your dad is sitting right here in this chair.' He pulled an empty chair over and placed it in front of Steve. 'Tell him how you feel. Don't leave anything out.'

Steve stumbled over his words at first, but after a few moments he spoke passionately, pouring out everything he wanted to say to his father. When he was finished, Fr Paul looked at him and said, 'What do you think your father would say to all that?' Steve thought for a minute and then replied: 'I think he would say what he used to say when I was upset and afraid as a child. He would pick me up, give me a big bear hug, and say: "Steve, I love you. There's nothing to worry about. That's my boy".' When Steve left Fr Paul's office, he felt that a heavy load had dropped from his shoulders. For the first time since his father died, he felt at peace.

There are times in our lives when we need our parents, or some significant other, to re-assure and encourage us, someone to tell us who we are, why we matter, and why they have high hopes for us.

The time had come in the life of Jesus when he too needed re-assurance and encouragement to find a new direction in his life. Luke, in our gospel story, tells us how this need was met.

It happened at his baptism by John in the River Jordan. What happened is cast in dramatic language. From the open heavens the comforting and empowering Holy Spirit comes down on him like a dove. A voice from heaven speaks: 'You are my Son the Beloved; my favour rests on you.'

It’s after this experience of hearing God speaking to him on the banks of the River Jordan, that Jesus understands that the time has come for him to begin his work on earth as God’s Son and Servant. The words of the prophet Isaiah in our First Reading come to him. ‘"Console my people, console them," says your God.’ It’s as though Jesus has just heard God the Father saying to him: 'I have chosen you for this mission. Go to my people. Tell them that I love them. Show them that I love them. Gather them together and bring them back to me.'

Now that he knew what was expected of him there would be no holding back. As we heard in our Second Reading: 'He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people ... who would have no ambition except to do good.’ That’s why he laid down his life for others - to his very last breath and his very last drop of blood.

We too, all of us, are dearly and deeply loved by God. He is our Father too. We are his sons and daughters. We have been made so by our baptism. We are also sisters and brothers of Jesus. We have been joined to his person at our baptism and sent out on the very same mission as Jesus – to show and tell people everywhere just how much God loves them.

As we celebrate his baptism and ours in our Eucharist today, then, can we re-open our hearts to God as people on a mission, as persons called and sent? Can we hear him saying to us once again those words that in effect Jesus heard from God: 'I have chosen you for this mission. Go to my people. Tell them that I love them. Show them that I love them. Gather them together and bring them back to me’? And having re-heard them, can we re-imagine ourselves as persons deliberately reaching out to others with the heart of Jesus all through this coming year, re-imagine ourselves reaching out as missionaries of God’s love to all others in our lives - at home, at school, at work, everywhere we go? Can we?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Baptism of the Lord 2019

Baptism! Water! Crying Babies! White clothes and candles! Crying parents and grandparents! How many of you are between the ages of 8 and 18 – raise your hand. (Ask someone) Do you remember when you were baptized? You don’t? How come? Probably because you were just a baby. (If parent there) Do you remember when he was baptized? Yes, your parents and godparents and grandparents have memories and pictures to prove that it really happened. There was a party – which you probably slept through. There were cards and gifts and celebration. Why? Because they were celebrating your new life – not only in the family - but as a new member of the Catholic Church. You were brought to Baptism by your parents because you were a creation of love, because you were a special child of God, and because your parents made up their minds that they would do everything possible to raise you as a Christian. Your parents wanted for you what was and is important for them – Christ is part of their lives and they wanted that for you as well.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? After all, he didn’t need Baptism to take away sin. Can’t you just picture Jesus coming up out of the water, his body drenched, his beard dripping, his hair matted and stringy. His garments covered with dirt? As he comes to shore, he couldn’t look less like the Son of God, the promised Redeemer. So why was he baptized? Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan was, in a sense, the beginning of his teaching life. The water indeed became a sign of new life.

And then, did you hear the voice from heaven: "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased!" Jesus is loved and praised before he even did anything – before the first miracle or any preaching – he is praised simply for who he is. And really, God says the same thing to each of us at Baptism - "You are my beloved son; you are my beloved daughter." (Ask someone ) – have you ever thought of yourself in that way? That can be pretty powerful. And being the specially loved son or specially loved daughter of God doesn’t excuse us from the hard work of doing good. It requires us to do good. In fact, just like Jesus, God expects us to make a difference in the world.

Those of you who are teenagers have had to make some difficult choices in life. You have had to get out of dangerous situations and have been mocked for it. You have been mocked because you just didn’t join the drinking crowd. You have been challenged because you don’t just see sex as a toy. You have been made fun of because you refused to join in the bullying of another student. You have been and you will be mocked for choosing Christ throughout your life. But you made the choice to put up with the scorn for the sake of that relationship you have with Jesus. Others might laugh at you, but down the road a piece, maybe a long way down the road, that guy or girl might try to be a better person because he or she knew someone like you who took Jesus seriously in their life. That person, those people who mock you now may be the people who will choose to be like you later.

Even for those of you who are younger, it can be easy for you to look at your Baptism as something that happened to you when you were infants but it doesn’t really mean anything to you now. Oh, but it does. Because you are God’s beloved one – and that’s huge! That means that it matters how you obey your parents, it matters how you get along with your brothers and sisters, it matters how you treat other people at school, it matters that you pray and come to Church.

It can be easy for you to forget all this – in the activities of life, in the decisions you make, in the relationships you nurture. And that’s why the rest of the people here this morning – all of us as Holy Spirit Church – want to walk with you, we want to put our arms around you and walk you through the challenges you will face. Many young adults have turned away from their Baptism. You have not. Let us walk with you.

In a moment we will renew our Baptismal promises and be sprinkled with the waters of new life. This morning, you can say for yourself what your parents said for you when you were baptized. Let’s be conscious of what we’re doing. God has something to say, calling us to look up, to listen and to follow. We have a chance to renew our commitment of faith. In our Baptism, as in the Baptism of Jesus, we celebrate God’s welcoming love, a love that comes prior to anything we may have done and prior to anything we may yet do. And the wonder of it all is that each day God renews his love for us and each day he speaks to us tender words about who we are and what we have done and what we can do. Hear what he says to you. Jesus says that you are loved in a special way. What does that mean? It means that you matter to God and you matter to all of us.

Deacon Russ O'Neill russon2330@sbcglobal.net

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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