Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday word, 09 Jan 2011

Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord A (09 January 2011)

Is 42. 1-4, 6-7; Ps 29; Ac 10. 34-38; Mt 3. 13-17

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Daily Voice

The accounts of the baptism of the Lord, like all the gospels, are not biographies of Jesus. Biographies describe people who were, but the gospels tell people who Jesus is. Jesus is not a dead person of the past; Jesus is our living Lord. From his incarnation our triune God acted: visiting Mary; Holy Spirit conceiving her son within her womb; and manifesting glory to the least likely people. At his baptism and from then on, Peter reminded us that our triune God continued acting: God proclaimed...through Jesus Christ...the kingdom in which all are home; God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with Holy Spirit and power; and God was with Jesus [as] he went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil.

From our conceptions and from our baptisms God in Jesus through their Spirit works in us. Like Jesus we are not robots, functioning according to already-written programs. Like Jesus we are not puppets, whose strings God pulls on a whim. Not at all! Like Jesus God addresses us, and ours is to recognize that voice. How do we dispose ourselves to do that? Our responsorial psalm offered me a clue.

Psalm 29 is one of ten1 that sing of God enthroned as king forever. No one saw the heavenly one take his throne; forever, of course, means without beginning, middle or end. These psalms acknowledge God as always Lord of creation as it praises God who is nothing less. In its praise Psalm 29 is fascinated with the voice of the Lord. The lectionary allowed us to hear part of its fascination: the voice of the Lord is mighty; the voice of the Lord is majestic.

Five more times the psalm echoes the voice of the Lord. Each time the psalm attaches to the phrase an element of a storm—thunder, fire of lightening and their powerful effects. Near the end of their slavery in Egypt the ragtag band of Hebrews saw God work powerfully in nature. At the start of their life of freedom, God entered a covenant with the people at Mt. Sinai. They recognized God’s presence as all the elements of a storm hid the mountain.2 While others worshiped storms, the ancestors of Jesus recognized the God of Abraham and Moses as Lord of creation, whose voice registered both with the power of storms as well as the gentle sliver of a whisper.3

From the beginnings of our baptized lives we are often like Elijah, who experienced God in a tiny whispering sound.4 If we do not make an effort to notice our triune God present to us and with us, we rush on unaware of God. The sevenfold repetition of the voice of the Lord in Psalm 29 suggested to me that I need to set aside time to become aware of God present to me and with me each day of the week.

Jesus grew aware how he was to accomplish his vocation as messiah, as anointed of the Lord. His awareness grew out of his life with his family, and it grew from his own many hours of solitude from working as a carpenter as well as his many hours of prayer with his heavenly Father.5 Jesus possessed a center around which all else turned.

Baptized into Jesus, he gives us his Spirit so we can grow centered like him, centered to discover how Jesus invites us to join him in announcing his gospel in deed as well as word. In union with his Spirit and sustained by his sacraments you and I can achieve a centered stillness from which our discipleship can flow more freely. A centered stillness can help us in all areas of living. Author D.H. Lawrence wrote, “One’s action ought to come ought of an achieved stillness; not to be mere a rushing on.”6 By pausing each day we can become more centered, and we can begin to recognize the voice of the Lord addressing us and inviting us to join Jesus in his mission for the world.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, become still and be aware of the Trinity creating you. Ask Mary and the saints to present you to Jesus. As you speak with Jesus marvel at his desire to live his vocation fully for you; ask him for the grace to live your baptism generously through you vocation in life and to give heed to his voice inviting you to join him. Close saying slowly the Lord’ Prayer. As you begin, recall that Jesus gave us new access to his Father so we all might have a bright, new relationship with our Creator, in whose triple name we are baptized for the sake of our world.


  1. Psalms 11, 24, 47, 75, 82, 93, 96-99 are the others.
  2. See Exodus 19.16 and 20.18-21 for two places.
  3. See 1Kings 19.9-13.
  4. 1Kings 19.12.
  5. Mark 6.46-47; Luke 3.21; 6.12.
  6. Quoted in Jonathan Lazear, Meditations for Men Who Do Too Much. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. no pagination; the quote is part of the meditation for January 4.
Wiki-image of an icon of the baptism of Jesus is in the public domain.

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