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Contents: Volume 2 - Baptism of the Lord (B)
- January 10, 2021

 Baptism

  of the

 LORD

   2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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Baptism of the Lord 2021

On this day in which we recall the Baptism of the Lord, we need to be reminded of the benefits of our Baptism and our strong connection to the Trinity. In this day and age, it is hard just to keep on keeping on for some, even more so in Christian ways. Remembering our Baptism can empower us!

In our first reading from the Book of Isaiah, God reminds us, as we thirst for water, an important symbol in Baptism, and for a better life itself, to "Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life." We are told that our God is generous in forgiving. We are promised that God's word, those promises that sustain us, "shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles confirms the all inclusive love of God. Peace was proclaimed through Jesus and the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to do good and heal those oppressed by the devil. Don't we need to recall that we have that same support and power?

Most of us were baptized as infants. We don't usually remember that day or its significance until, perhaps, we bring our own children to be baptized or participate in the Baptism of another person. The Catholic Church has emphasized different aspects of Baptism throughout the centuries and, therefore, parishes differ in some respects.

The Gospel today pulls lots of those thoughts and practices together in describing the Baptism of Jesus. While no sin has to be taken away because Jesus is free from all sin, there is certainly an influx of grace. Jesus is a willing and eager participant as are parents/godparents of children today. Jesus is about to begin his ministry and seeks closeness with God as do parents/godparents as the baptized person begins a new life within the immediate family and church family. The community is present, witnessing the event and offering support.

Our Baptism empowers us through the Spirit to live the Christian life, in good times and in bad, just as Jesus was able to follow the will of the Father. Our Baptism is our foundation, the beginning rock of support for all we do. Where is it that we need to spread this part of the Good News to others at a time when we are all so in need? Yes, we are all in need of being refreshed, being cared for, feeling loved ... and we are, by God, if not by any human.

There are people who have serious physical and financial needs as well. Our Baptism is a preparation for ministry, to provide help where it is needed as we become the hands of God. Where is it that each of us is to serve this new year and bring God's word and caring to others through our help?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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The Baptism of the Lord January10, 2021

Isaiah 42:1-4 & 6-7 [ or Isaiah 55:1-11]; Responsorial Psalm 29; Acts of Apostles 10:34-38; Gospel Acclamation Jn 1:29; Mark 1:7-11

It is an astonishing thing to hear Mark’s gospel account of the baptism of Jesus by his cousin, John the Baptizer. It is Jesus comes out of the water and hears a voice that came from the heavens torn open. The Holy Spirit came down from the heavens torn open in the form of a dove. And Jesus heard a voice from the heavens: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

This sounds awful strange, accustomed as we are to thinking that Jesus knew who he was – that is the Son of God and the Son of Man from the beginning of his life, perhaps even before he came to self-consciousness. What had Jesus done that he would need to approach his cousin, John, and be baptized? We cannot think of Jesus as having committed any sin. After all, he is the Son of God! Then comes the others who insist that he was human, a Son of Man as well. Was he not subject to the all the temptations and inclinations of all humanity? Could he not have sinned? In the fatalism that so dominates religious thought could not say that he was tempted like us? Surely as a child he must have lied to his mother? Surely as an adolescent awakening to his sexuality he must have entertained prurient thoughts? Surely in his work as a tradesman he must have cut corners, produced shabby work in the interests of greater profits? Scriptures of the Christian era and the early Councils of the Church and Catholic tradition insists that Jesus is – some say was – like us in all things but sin. That experience of the Community of followers in the Way of Jesus understand this to mean that sin is not an inevitability. We have available to us the strength of the God man.

Return then to the Baptism of Jesus. What reason would Jesus have to seek a baptism of repentance? Why did he come seeking the Baptist’s work?

Up until this time, Jesus lived as would every man who is born, who learns, who practices a career. At this point in his life, Jesus begins to respond to a mission, to a calling to make God’s presence visible. He comes as a beginning of his ministry of leading the chosen nation to a new relationship with the Father.

In nearly all literature that speaks to the arc of human living, there comes a point where each person intuitively but very consciously realizes his/her uniqueness. Pity the person who wanders though life uncommitted. For some, this moment results in a marriage of total and lasting commitment. For others, it is a commitment to service of others. It should be noted that the commitment required of a valid marriage should not exclude or take the place of a commitment of service to others. For the vast majority of humanity, a commitment of intimacy with another is the fountain of strength and endurance, and perseverance to complete their special calling. This baptism of Jesus in Mark’s gospel marks the beginning of his very public life. He has spent about thirty years learning, growing in his understanding of his person – that he is indeed God and Man. The voice Mark hears whispering from the clouds, the sign of a dove – a symbol of peace and strength – are the Father’s endorsement of Jesus’ mission. In the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and Mark there is a narrative about Jesus being tempted by the devil. In each of these temptations – Matthew and Luke are more expansive than Mark’s account – the focus is on Jesus’ mission. Jesus is faced with the idea of being a material and political Messiah with its accompanying human privileges of wealth glory, and power. Jesus’ choices of dependence on God, personal humility, and obedience in his heart to God’s will because of his acceptance of God’s love, compassion, and mercy – this is a choice that comes from Jesus’ baptism. That baptism is clearly the signal of a choice of Jesus to begin his focus on his work of bringing humanity to the Father.

In Mark’s gospel this is the beginning of Jesus’ miracles. Very often preachers, Christians, and educators look at Jesus’ miracles as a marketing commercial of Jesus’ power and relationship with the Father. This is so wrong. Jesus’ miracles are more truly an expression of God’s will for humanity. God’s will is that humanity be healthy, be freed from the enslavement that is a characteristic of the way of the world. Why don’t we recognize that the failure to make access to health care for every person is a contributor to the horrors of abortion? Why don’t we realize that failure to provide adequate wages to persons in the hospitality industries, in support work is in fact a new slavery that uses economic pressures to enslave persons who have been denied access to education, to trades, and to equal protection under the law? Do we not realize that idolatry of power, of wealth, of false, sycophantic fame is in fact a dark blindness of spirit? If we listen carefully to the reading from the 42nd chapter of Isaiah this Sunday, we will note that Isaiah uses the work "justice" three times. In addition, the root and basis of "justice" is a covenant of the people which is a light for the nations. Justice for us is often a measure of law. That law is established by God in his covenant with us. In Christian terms, this is the dual law of love of God and of neighbor. That law of love is noteworthy because it is based on the loving kindness of the Father, on the Father’s compassion, and on the unbounded mercy practiced by the Father in his relationship with his creation. Tale the to read the optional selection from Isaiah’s chapter 55. That lengthy selection indicates the foundational truths of Jesus’ mission.

If we listen to these readings this Sunday as a message about Jesus and his mission, we will be moved to respect this God/Man. If we want to make these readings apply to our own mission in life, we will see Jesus serving as our role-model. We too are called upon to give sight to the blind, to heal the broken limbs of the lame, to lift up the poor to fullness of life.

This Sunday is about us. We have a choice given us again this Sunday after the Epiphany. Are we willing to accept the mission of Jesus as our own? Are we willing in our daily living to heal the sick, to give sight to the blind, strength to broken limbs, and health to suffering hearts and minds? We need not wander the hills and byways of Galilee or Judaea. We have our own pathways, our own byways, our own streets, our own homes, and communities in which to practice the way of the Christ. The gospel is about our living and its way to fullness of life, to healthy living, to understanding and to union with others. No one must ever be allowed to divide us from God or from each other. It is for us to hear as well the voice of God, "You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased."

This is the beginning of the Ministry of Jesus, the Christ, the One Promised. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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JESUS’ BAPTISM AND OURS

What does your being a baptized person mean to you?

There’s this young 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 their place and walked out. He was feeling angry, 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 everyone 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 as 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. 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".'

'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 depth of the hurt that he was carrying far too long.

'Perhaps there is 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 would your father 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 was feeling 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 what high hopes they have 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. Mark, in our gospel story, tells us in powerful poetic words and images how this need was met. It happened at his baptism by John in the River Jordan. From the open heavens the Holy Spirit came down on him like a dove. A voice from heaven spoke: '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 Jordan River, that Jesus understood that the time had come for him to begin his work on earth, both as Son of God and as God's suffering servant. The words of the prophet Isaiah, heard in the First Reading, come to Jesus. 'See. I have made you as a witness to the peoples, a leader…’ It is 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 read in a famous verse in the Acts of the Apostles: '... because God was with him Jesus went about doing good and healing all who had fallen into the power of the devil [evil]’ (Acts 10:38).’

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 brothers and sisters of Jesus. At our baptism we were joined to his person. And we have been 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 this Eucharist today, then, can we re-open our hearts to his call? Can we hear him saying to us right here right now what 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?'

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

 

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Year B: The Baptism of the Lord (The Lollipop Man)

"I have baptized you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit."

  • What exactly does it mean to be "baptized in the Holy Spirit"?
  • How exactly does it feel like to be the publically proclaimed Child of God in whom He is well pleased?
  • Well, normally I don’t have any good answers to those questions, but today I think I might be a bit closer than usual.

If, like me, you have the exquisite joy of cycling to work every weekday morning in the permanent cold December drizzle of suburban south London, you can at least know that along the route there will be one moment of glorious relief. As you go up the Loughborough Road, cold, miserable and drenched by every passing car, you will come across a pedestrian crossing attendant, or as the children call them ‘lollipop man’ after the large round sign that they carry on a long pole. If you are not familiar with the role of lollipop men and women, let me tell you that these are not commonly significant people in British life; their salary and social status tend to reflect this. But this lollipop man has made it his business to be a force for good in the world insofar as within him lies. Every person who passes him on the road receives a smile, a wave and a greeting. Every single one! And on a busy main arterial road during rush hour, that’s a lot of smiling, waving and greeting. But he never fails. And if you are one of the minority who choose to respond in kind, he will smile more broadly, wave more vigorously and cheer you on your way. The last time that happened to me, I was in the last mile of the London marathon and wasn’t in the right frame of mind to appreciate it.

There are of course many cynical explanations: GP’s notoriously do cynicism for a living, though we prefer to call it "clinical acumen". So as you proceed up the Akerman Road, you will wonder if he feels that, in a time of job insecurity, popularity might pay. You will also wonder just how different waving to traffic really is from shouting at traffic. You will also consider whether if you were doing that job on a cold winter’s morning, you too would take every opportunity of moving around just to keep warm. But, by the time you reach the Oval, you will have examined all of these hypotheses and more and found that none explain all of the known facts. And you will find yourself forced to conclude that he is simply a man who wishes every person that he encounters, however briefly and however distantly, to share a moment of his joy in life.

So, as you then proceed up the Harleyford Road, you will discover yourself waiting patiently at red lights, smiling at your fellow cyclists, unaccountably omitting to swear at the bus drivers who obstruct your way with apparent malice aforethought. And as you wait at the Vauxhall Cross roundabout, you will come to wonder what the world would feel like if there were more people like that. And then, just as you cross the midpoint of Vauxhall Bridge, you will discover within yourself the desire to go thou and do likewise - to rejoice in the blessings of the universe and the presence of God within it. And to share that joy with everyone you meet.

Let us stand and profess our faith in God’s joy in each and every one us – Children of God.

Paul O'Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.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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