Seams Of Our Lives

One of the benefits of membership in a sacramental church like the Roman Catholic Church is the sacramental system itself. Even when we do not feel all that close to the Lord, the sacramental system assures us of His presence at all the important seams of our lives.

For instance, when we are infants our parents take us to the Church to receive the sacrament of Baptism. Being infants, we are at a seam in our life. We have been born into this world and there is no going back to the time before we were born. We are here now and the good Lord is here to receive us and to offer us His presence in the sacrament of Baptism and all that it offers.

Baptism is the beginning of a grace-filled process and we baptize infants because we want to begin that grace-filled process as soon as possible. Ideally, we grow and mature in that process and when we reach adulthood, we will make that mature decision to accept the Lord in our lives and follow His call on our lives.

After Baptism and somewhere around seven or eight years old we discover that we are able to deceive others and get away with it; hence, we arrive at another seam in our lives from which there is no going back. Once we discover the ability there is no unlearning it. Here again the Lord appears in our lives to enable us to deal with that seam in the form of First Penance and First Communion.

Maturing even more and approaching our teen years, we discover the effects of hormones on our lives and begin to understand how the race perpetuates itself in this world. Once we understand the whole issue of sex there is no turning back – yet another seam. We discover our lack of ability to unlearn what we have learned. At that rather large seam in our lives there is the good Lord offering us the sacrament of confirmation where we gain the strength of the Holy Spirit to deal with the issue.

Continuing to mature we find ourselves in our twenties considering what we will do in this world with our lives. We might choose the seam of priesthood and the Lord meets us with the sacrament of Orders. We might consider marriage where the Lord meets us with the sacrament of Marriage, or we might pursue the consecrated life of a Brother or Sister where the Lord meets us with consecration. In any case, we have reached another life seam and there is no going back.

All throughout our lives we might find ourselves at the seam of suffering and the good Lord meets our need by the sacrament of the Sick. Illness often changes us and even if we overcome it, there can be a change in us from which there is no return. The final administration of that sacrament of the Sick is the last seam where we leave this world and there is no return.

The Church provides us with encounters with the Lord even if we are not feeling very close to Him. The genius is that overtime we discover that ‘feeling’ His presence is second to ‘faith’ in His presence and thus prove the scripture passage that says, “We walk by faith and not by sight”.

Baptism Of The Lord, A Homily

Homily, Jan 10-11, 2015: Cycle B, Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

This feast represents a moment of clarity & decision when Jesus knew exactly what God the Father wanted Him to do & He himself felt ready & willing to do it.

Though we do not always act on it, I believe all of us have such moments of clarity throughout our lives. We just do not recognize them when they occur & we miss them. We do not see them.

Msgr alluded to that same issue of cognition last week on the feast of the Epiphany. He mentioned there were other instances besides ‘the’ classic epiphany where Jesus was revealed to the Wise Men. He listed the burning bush, the column of fire leading the Israelites, quiet wind sound at the mouth of the cave. We do not recognize them as epiphanies.

I think the same thing happens to us with these moments of clarity. We have those moments like Jesus did, but we do not recognize them as such.

In today’s Gospel, we meet the 30-year-old Jesus emerging from His hidden life, from His struggle to find and be His authentic self.

He had been searching during those hidden years. Some experts say he even spent time studying with the Essenes, a monastic brotherhood of Jews, in His search.  Ultimately, He came all the way from Galilee to Judea because the best examples He could find of what he was looking for, were the actions & message of John the Baptizer.

John was a simple honest man who demanded a letting go of all that was false and not authentic – referring to sin. John’s Baptism was a Baptism of repentance.  Yet, Jesus, “Like us in every way but sin” came & lined up with sinners for John to baptize Him.

This humble action by Jesus clearly represented a definite decision.  His baptism marked a significant time for Him personally, and as He experienced His call to mission He was recognized & revealed, as the chosen servant of God.

That is depicted in the today’s Gospel by the heavens opening up, and the Voice of God the Father being heard affirming Him; “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Certainly, to all who heard that, that was a dramatic epiphany.

We may say, “Well I’d like to hear the voice of the Father talking to me like that.” I have news for you; men hear it all the time. The older a man gets the more the voice of the Heavenly Father begins to sound just like the voice of his wife.

With this story, Mark tells us that a new time in history has begun. It is telling us that the Jew’s time of waiting has ended and a new time of salvation has begun.  Jesus’ new beginning is God’s new beginning & the people’s new beginning.

Through the person of Jesus, God will reach out to all Peoples in a new way.  No more king’s strong army or mighty power.  The words in Zechariah now come true, “Not by an army, not by might, but by my Spirit.”  Whatever Jesus does, He will accomplish it by the power of God’s Spirit in Him.

This same Spirit empowers us and makes a dwelling place in us, at our baptism.  For those of us who were baptized as infants, as we mature we’ll “grow into our baptism” because it needs to be lived out as adults by our daily personal decisions great and small.

Sometimes we are afraid of the challenge of our baptism.  The basic challenge is to become more and more Christ-like. That can be a very daunting call, we would much rather seek God in church-going activities.

But, we are called to make a difference in our world, beyond the church walls just as Jesus did.  We are empowered by God’s Spirit to make a difference. That may sound melodramatic are even outlandish that we can make such a difference.  Think about it…

Everyone here has benefitted from the decision of others to live their lives as Christians.  Most of us can say that we are who we are, because our parents decided they would do everything possible to raise us as Christians, as Catholics. Our parents surely made a difference in our lives – here we are after all these years.

Many of us sacrificed a great deal of material wellbeing & time & effort because we wanted to bring Christian children into the world. And, as a result, those children have brightened the world with a unique reflection of Jesus. Sometimes as parents, we may wish they had chosen a different reflection.

John Donne was correct in his poem, “No man is an island.”  Everything that we do has an effect upon everyone else to some degree.

When we make the critical decision to live our lives for the Lord, when we decide that we will take a leap outside the status quo of society & plunge into our faith in the Lord, plunge into the Jordan River with Jesus, in effect, we bring a tremendous change upon our little area of humanity. We prove true the old adage, “Bloom where you are planted”.

When we step outside of our safe selves and begin to serve humanity, the Spirit of God meets us & enables us to accomplish much more than we could ever accomplish by ourselves in our own strength.

Today, on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord as we reflect on the impact of John’s Baptism of Jesus, let us also reflect on our own Baptism, and how we might answer God’s call, inherent in our Baptism.

The choice is always there to ask for the help of His Spirit, to give us the heart to serve as He served.

It is not a one-time thing.  It is a choice that we must make every day, for our own good, for the good of those around us, and for the glory of God and His kingdom.

New Years Day! So, We Begin Again…

New Years Day! So, we begin again…one year ended and a new year begins. We have another chance to “get it right” – sounds like Bill Murray’s movie, Groundhog Day doesn’t it?

Three hundred & sixty-five days to work on it. Can we get through one of those days behaving like Jesus Christ? Ah ha, that is the question. Can we truly see things and others through His eyes and respond to all as He would respond? As humans behaving humanly, probably not, but as humans responding to the internal promptings of the Holy Spirit, we can come a little closer.

So, the work ahead of us as this new year unfolds is to pray for the awareness of that still small voice, and having heard that whisper, respond in faith to it, no matter the circumstances, no matter the offense, no matter the ill intent of others, respond to each as nearly as humanly possible as Jesus Himself would respond.