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Pastor's Letter 20220109 - 09 January 2022 - The Servant of Yahweh


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January 9th, 2022

The Baptism of Jesus

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A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  

The Servant of Yahweh” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

In our First Reading (Isaiah 40: 1-11,) the prophet assures the exiles in Babylon that God is coming to save them.  The prophecy was fulfilled in their return from exile.  In his poetic vision, he hears the voice of God bid a crier run speedily to Jerusalem to carry the good news that the Lord leads His people to freedom.  The restoration of their homeland is a sign of salvation; it is, in its measure, a redemption, a new creation.  In moral terms, the “highway” to be made straight was one’s own life; preparation for the Kingdom was “repentance.”  

~~~

In V.11 of our Second Reading (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7,) the exhortation: “God, our Savior, desires everyone to be saved,” insists that Christians live “in the present age”—in the “real world.”  God’s grace permeates human lives, and enables us to abandon vice and to embrace virtue. God has lavished His goodness and loving kindness upon us—His loving kindness manifested in Jesus, God’s only Son, Who came to cleanse and renew us.  Titus, a disciple of Paul, echoes his constant teaching: The call to salvation is a gracious gift of God, independent of our deeds. Confronted with such generosity, there is no place for self-righteousness; our response to God’s Christmas gift must be one of humble thankfulness and acceptance.   

~~~

Our Gospel gives us some of the Baptist’s preaching and concludes with a brief account of Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:15-22.)  Hope for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah had been aroused by John’s appearance, and people made the assumption that perhaps He had come, in this ascetic figure of a man. His denial looks to , Whom he designates “the coming One,” and “the more powerful One.”  As John knew, Baptism was a “preparation” rite, bound up with a summons to repentance and confession of sins—only in preparation for the Messianic age yet to come.  Jesus’ presence among those others awaiting Baptism, approaching John, points to His relatability to sinners—although He, Himself, was sinless.  Luke acknowledges Jesus’ prayer, to which the presence of the Holy Spirit (the descending dove) was a response.  A well-known symbol of the people for hope, the dove shows Jesus to be the Spirit-filled Son and Servant—a messenger of God to His people.   

The Greatness of Baptism

Our Scriptures today bring us ahead 30-years in the life of Jesus. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew, the only ones to contain “Infancy Narratives,” shed no light on Jesus’ early life, except for the “Holy Family” selection, wherein we learn of Him preaching in the synagogue, as an adolescent.  It may seem abrupt, as we have so recently completed Advent and Christmas, but we now press, head-long, into Jesus’ public ministry. 

People can hold many “offices” in the Church, but all of these pale, in comparison, to the basic gift to all: Baptism.  When we stand before the throne of God, those other offices will be of no importance. Our dignity will depend on one thing only—the extent to which we have lived out our Baptismal calling.

Jesus’ Baptism reminds us of our own baptism.  In the beautiful Baptismal ceremony, we were formally given a name and welcomed into the family of God’s people.  Lovely prayers were said over us; our body was signed with the “Sign of the Cross”—the mark of Christ—as water was poured over us, and we were “cleansed” from sin. It is, more importantly, a symbol of the undying life of God.  Not once, but twice, our bodies were anointed with holy oil.  Just as the bodies of ancient athletes were smeared with oil to give them strength for competition, our anointing gives us strength against the forces of evil.  And just as kings prophets and priests were anointed with oil, marking them as God’s ministers to the community, our anointings made us envoys of Christ in the world. 

The Holy Spirit also descended upon us, too, just as Jesus was called by the Father.   We were also called by name, as a “beloved son/daughter” of God,  in order to help us live the life of a Christian and to participate in the mission of Jesus.  

From a spiritual point of view, then, Baptism is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us!  In our Baptism, we were christened, that is, “made like Christ.”  But this doesn’t happen automatically, as a result of being baptized.  We are required to learn what it means to be a Christian, and to grow into it.  This is a task of a lifetime.  

As we lavishly celebrate birthdays, we should also celebrate our baptismal day!  This was the day we were “reborn” as children of God.  Every time we enter a Church and sign ourselves with Holy Water, we are reminding ourselves of our Baptism, and committing ourselves to live up to it.  To do so, is to live as a disciple of Jesus.  

Vocations

There are many vocations in the Church.  But the one common to everyone is Baptism, wherein we received the vocation to be Jesus’ disciples.  This is the “core” upon which all other vocations are built.  

It is a sad observation that many of the baptized live no differently from the non-baptized.  Their faith, if they practice at all, is an immature one, based on non-decision and routine practice. Most importantly, we must believe with understanding, and to follow Christ out of personal conviction. 

It may be of value to consider in what is meant by the “Christian vocation.”  In the words of the Gospel, we are called to be
“the salt of the earth; and the light of the world.”  Christianity is how to live, not just about what to believe.   There should be no distinction between religious activity and that of our daily lives.  Faith has to be translated into action.  Christians have a very positive role to play in the world.  We have something to offer, that the world desperately needs—even though it may not always welcome it.  We should not be shy or apologetic about our role.  A certain boldness with courage is apropos.  

For the ordinary person—and especially the clergy—it means to be a Christian where you are in your particular station of life.  There are many ways of serving Christ and His Gospel.  First of all, most people are not called to an apostolate, but to discipleship.  We may well have an easier life if we had never received the “call.”  But then, our lives may not have been happier, or as full.  Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it to the full.”  The Gospel offers us a deeper and more authentic way of living—and it implants in us the seeds of eternal life.  

The Christian vocation causes the vision of a higher and a purer life to rise up within us, while, at the same time, inspiring sacrifice and service to others.  It expands the possibilities of human love and courage.  Further, the task is not one for the individual Christian only, but for the Christian community as a whole.  It is easier to witness to Christ as a member of a supportive congregation.  Fortunately, at our Baptism, we were welcomed into such a believing community.  

  May God Richly Bless You!

"At Baptism, I received grace--that quality that makes me share in the very nature of God."

~~Mother Angelica of the Annunciation/Poor Claires of Perpetual Adoration~~

Spirit of God.docx

To view this week's stream of the Holy Mass, click here:

Part one: https://youtu.be/wOGNRAUkr6M

Part two: https://youtu.be/HY-JYRJ6lks

Edited by Father Michael
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