Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday word, 12 Jan 2014

Gift and Mission
Baptism of the Lord A (12 January 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The feast of our Lord’s baptism closes the Christmas season. Its scriptures and prayers echo and crown our Advent-Christmas time of longing for God to visit in person the people God created. Allow me to splash before you some effects of the Incarnation of God; then to suggest how the Incarnation of God involves us.

I paged through the Roman Missal and noticed that Advent prayers repeatedly implored God in Jesus by their Spirit to rescue us, profit us, cleanse us, prepare us, teach us to discern wisely, gladden us and help us.1 Advent began and ended with images of quickness and eagerness on our part. Advent’s First Sunday continued to remind us that Jesus will come again; its collective prayer asked of God the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming. Advent’s last Sunday prayed, after we received communion, that we may press forward all the more eagerly to the worthy celebration of the mystery of your Son’s Nativity. 

Christmas eve saw us and the entire Church praying we may draw new vigor from celebrating the Nativity of [God’s] Only Begotten Son.2 Christmas Day masses had us praying for gladness and to share in the likeness of Christ3 and his immortality.4 All are possible because Jesus shared our mortal humanity.5

In the days after Christmas we prayed for many of the effects we longed for during Advent. Because Jesus joined our humanity we desired our life may be constantly sustained6 by him. We also desired freedom: that the newness of the Nativity in the flesh of your Only Begotten Son may set us free.7 We prayed on Epiphany that Jesus and our confession of him may be our true treasure.8

A brief review of seven weeks of our praying: prayers of those weeks contained deep desires. I splash before you the church’s praying imagery so you may feel the unity of the Advent-Christmas season. The Incarnation of God in Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to save us: God’s promised plans for our welfare and to give us a future and a hope.9 God’s plans for us are the person Jesus. The baptism of the man Jesus grew to be confirmed he was God’s son. His prophetic and liberating ministry manifested God’s Holy Spirit and power, as we heard St. Peter preach.

St. Peter grew aware that all who allowed God to move them, to impress their hearts and to act in ways in harmony with God’s justice that Jesus proclaimed are part of Jesus and his body, God’s family. Jesus had said as much10; but it took Peter time to appreciate that. Yet Peter was preaching Jesus dead and risen by his actions before he enjoyed his greater awareness. That gives us and every friend of Jesus hope.

The Incarnation of God in Jesus involves us at birth and especially our baptismal rebirth. The Incarnation of God is not a class we need to attend and pass. The Incarnation of God in Jesus is gift to us. It was the way Jesus with John could fulfill all righteousness. The Incarnation is not private. In Jesus God and humans united. First John then others Jesus invited to join and extend his mission, God’s justice/righteousness—the scriptures use one word for both.

God’s justice surpasses the best human political and economic systems. In the face of so much cruel inequity we wonder how God’s justice can be so great. Jesus showed us. He came to rescue and save us from what we do to one another. That differs from rescuing us from what we suffer. If saving us from suffering were God’s plan for our welfare, God would not have allowed his son to suffer and die. Jesus ushered in God’s justice not by being combative: not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street, break[ing]…a bruised reed or quench[ing]…a smoldering wick. Jesus joined our suffering. He did what we would not. That is his victory.

God’s Incarnation involves us as gift: no one is alone; Jesus accompanies us. God’s Incarnation also involves us as mission: Jesus invites us to accompany others with care, concern, prayer, and to act from them for those in need. Pithy phrases of Pope Francis illustrate our Christian mission. Our mission is “warming people’s hearts…walking with them in the night…dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments…mending their brokenness.”11 With us Jesus accompanies others with God’s justice. Living our mission gives others the gift of God’s justice embodied: Jesus.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause in the presence of our triune God.
  • Ask John who baptized Jesus to present you to him.
  • Marvel how he desired to live his mission fully for you. Notice how he invites you to join him.
  • Ask him for the grace of a warmer heart to live your baptism generously and be Jesus’ vigorous disciple in name and in truth.12
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’ Prayer. As you begin, recall 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.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. These appear consecutively in the Mass prayers for Advent in the Roman Missal.
  2. Vigil Mass of Christmas, Prayer after Communion.
  3. Midnight Mass, Prayer Over the Offerings.
  4. Mass During the Day, Prayer after Communion.
  5. Mass During the Day, Collect.
  6. December 29, Prayer after Communion.
  7. December 30, Collect.
  8. Vigil Mass of Epiphany, Prayer after Communion.
  9. See Jeremiah 29.11.
  10. Matthew 12.48-50.
  11. At his Meeting with the Bishops of Brazil, 4. July, 27, 2013. He encouraged bishops to train collaborators to act in these ways.
  12. Baptism of the Lord, Prayer after Communion.


Wiki-image of Baptism of Jesus PD-Release Wiki-image by Israel Defense Forces of Christian pilgrim baptized on Epiphany CC BY-SA 2.0

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