Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday word, 11 Jan 15

Our Mission: Christian Witness
The Baptism of the Lord B (11 Jan 2015)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
As we train our minds and hearts on the Nativity of Jesus, we naturally focus on him as infant and child. Immense, immeasurable God beginning human life from infancy—as everyone does—boggles our minds. We rightly name the Incarnation and the Nativity of Jesus mysteries. By the word mystery the church does not mean a whodunnit. The word mystery speaks of God’s desire to become more available to and for people and our world.

Christian mystery is not locked into time. If it were, it would be long past. Jesus is no dead figure of the past. He lives among us by the power of his Spirit. The mysteries of his life continue to bless us with gracious power. The mysteries of Jesus’ life are his sacramental presence to us and for us.1

The Season of Christmas offers us several mysteries in which to lose ourselves, and not only the Nativity of Jesus. This season offers his Presentation in the Temple; his Epiphany; his escape from Herod’s murderous designs. As it closes the season invites us to savor his Baptism.

This pattern of our worship, of savoring many sides of his Incarnation, was born in the church’s early centuries. A bishop in Italy felt this pattern of worship reasonable. Of the Lord’s baptism he preached: 

Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism, which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.2 

The mystery of Jesus’ baptism gave birth to his public ministry. The Baptizer announced that Jesus would baptize with Holy Spirit. Who could anoint with God’s spirit if God did not make it possible? At his baptism God identified Jesus as God’s beloved Son.

In the clarifying light of the mystery of his resurrection the church soon grasped that Jesus’ life and ministry was about power to bequeath Holy Spirit to everyone: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

God’s son became human for us as Jesus of Nazareth. Risen from the dead Jesus continues to transform us and all who surrender their lives to him. The sacrament of our baptisms began of our transformation into Jesus’ divine nature. The mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation begins a personal mystery of each of us: baptism begins to make us faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting [us] in a living union with [God’s] only Son, [our] Savior.3

Savoring the mystery of Jesus’ baptism allows us to know ourselves as our triune God knows us: as sons and daughters of God; as sisters and brothers of Jesus. It is good to ask to enjoy this graced self-knowledge more. Feeling this graced self-knowledge and getting energy from it fuels our Christian witness. Having anointed us with his spirit Jesus empowers us to communicate his spirit to others and anoint them with it by deed and word. We name our power our Christian witness.

The more we witness to Jesus the more we grow as our truer and more real selves: beloved of God, his Father and ours. Our truer and more real selves are portals of his presence as we seek to do good and bring forth justice in Jesus’ strong, loving and wise way. Beginning with baptism the sacraments transform and nourish us for our mission of Christian witness each day.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in the love of our triune God.
  • Ask  John the Baptizer to present you to Jesus.
  • Stand on the bank of the Jordan with Jesus; then speak to him: marvel that he is the son of God born for us; tell him your desire to share his spirit.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to transform you more as his witness.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ gave us his prayer to guide us daily to love God and to witness Jesus’ life-giving power to others.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Pope St. Leo, Sermon 74, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC].
  2. Saint Maximus of Turin, From his Sermon on Epiphany.
  3. CCC #1129.
Wiki-images: Baptism of Jesus PD-US; Jordan baptism site by אלה פאוסט CC BY 2.5

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