St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
Psalms 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10
The Baptism of the Lord - Jan 12, 2020
The day of Jesus' baptism is one of the pivotal moments in his life. It marks the beginning of what the Church traditionally calls his "Public Life."
The life of Christ can be divided into four major sections.
First, what is called his "Hidden Life." This includes Christ's infancy, childhood, and young adulthood. The Gospels record little of these years. History and tradition fill in some of the blanks, but for his first 30 years, Jesus lived a normal, relatively uneventful, working-class life. In a small town where everyone knew everyone else, he spent his days helping Mary, Joseph, and their neighbors make ends meet. We call it his "Hidden Life" because his true identity and mission were hidden from the world during this period.
The Second section is his "Public Life." This starts with his baptism and goes until the Last Supper. In this period he traveled the highways of Galilee and Judea, preaching, teaching, healing, performing miracles, and training his Twelve Apostles. During this period, his identity as Messiah became known to the public - first with the dramatic revelation at his baptism, and then through his words and mighty deeds.
The third period is his Passion. It goes from the Last Supper through his trials, scourging, crucifixion, and burial. This is the culmination of his mission, when he reveals the shocking depth of God's love for us sinners and offers himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. The fourth section is the period of his Resurrection. It goes from Easter until his Ascension into heaven - the final fulfillment of his mission. These four sections are not random. Christ lived them for us - and they correspond to the four phases of Christian life - the phases by which we attain Christian maturity and wisdom.
As Christians, our Hidden Life usually begins with something significant or extraordinary. Christ's birth on Christmas Day was surrounded by supernatural glory and drama - the angels appearing to the shepherds and the Magi bringing their gifts from the east.
So too, every Christian should be able to identify some moment when they took personal responsibility for their faith. Maybe it was at First Communion. Maybe it was at Confirmation. Maybe it was when you got married. Maybe it was after a retreat, or on a pilgrimage, or in the aftermath of a family tragedy. It can happen in many different ways and places, but it has to happen.
To follow Christ in a mature manner, we have to consciously accept his invitation, to make a fundamental option in our lives: to declare ourselves for or against Christ. This is sometimes called a moment of conversion or repentance. But that's only the beginning - just as Christmas was the beginning of Christ's Hidden Life. Once we have made a decision to follow Christ, then the process of what spiritual writers call "integration" begins. This is our Hidden Life - the hard work of putting our lives in order. Only God sees this work.
But it's essential. We start living like Christians: our relationships become healthier, we become more responsible, dependable, balanced, patient, joyful - but it only happens through a steady effort supported by prayer and the sacraments. Integration is like the period of spring training for baseball players: it's getting our lives into shape - into Christ's shape.
Once we have made our fundamental option and made progress in our integration, we will soon be ready for the third phase - generosity. God is like a good coach - he loves us too much to let us settle for mediocrity. And so, once we get the basics down, once our lives are free from habits of serious sin and we have developed some spiritual maturity, then he invites us to follow him more closely.
Something will happen to test us, to purify us, to push us to deeper faith and more selfless love. We get pushed out of our Christian comfort zone - just as Christ was pushed out of the comfort of his home in Nazareth at the start of his Public Life. From his baptism on, he faced temptation, opposition, and exhaustion as he fulfilled the mission he had received from his Father. The same thing happens to us when we are ready for it - God gives us a mission that demands more generosity.
Maybe he sends us hardship - physical, emotional, or moral suffering. Maybe he will nudge our conscience with a new idea - like give up a lucrative job in order to serve the Church. Maybe he will invite us to a whole new level of adventure by calling us to the priesthood or the consecrated life. These invitations to generosity come in little things and in big things, but they keep coming.
And every time we respond generously by accepting the invitation and adjusting our level of integration, we will experience God more deeply, grow in wisdom and virtue, and achieve a new level of Christian maturity. And then God will send us another invitation to generosity, and the growth will continue.
God will never be cruel to us. He will never ask too much of us - ask or invite us to a level of generosity that is beyond us. But on the other hand, he will never ask too little of us either. He loves us too much to leave us stuck in mediocrity. Our Lord Jesus Christ showed the extent of his love by suffering and dying on the cross. He did it that way on purpose.
He knows that since we live in a fallen world, a world ruled by selfishness, we too will have to die on our crosses in order to fulfill our vocation to love as Christ loved. And if we do our best to carry generously the crosses that the Lord allows to come our way, then we will be well-prepared for the final phase of Christian life: perseverance. This simply means staying faithful to our friendship with Christ "at the hour of our death," as we pray in the Hail Mary. It is comforting to remember that when that hour finally does come, we will not have to face it alone - Jesus will be there with us. In fact, he is with us each step of the way, if only we look with the eyes of faith.
That's the message of Christ's baptism.
Our Lord became one of us, getting baptized even though he didn't need to. He took our place here in this valley of tears, so that we can one day take our place at his side in the heavenly homeland. That's the destination we look forward to as we move from our fundamental option, through integration and generosity, to final perseverance.
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10
First Corinthians 1:1-3
2nd Sunday in OT - Jan 19, 2020
Today’s readings teach us not only that we were born to serve and to shine, but that we were created for that purpose. If we embrace that calling Our Lord will exceed all our expectations, because his plans not only encompass our noble ones, but goes way beyond them. We see that in the case of St. John the Baptist, and we also see it in the calling of every believer.
Isaiah in today’s First Reading speaks of Israel’s calling: to serve God for his glory as well as for their own.
Israel is called to be the Lord’s servant and to show God’s glory. We were created to serve the Lord and he promises we’ll be glorious in his sight and strengthened by him.
That service, at times demanding and thankless, is meant to make the Lord’s glory shine far beyond ourselves.
Isaiah today reminds us we’re called to be “a light to the nations,” and through that light salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.
We’re called to serve and to shine out of no one’s vanity, but to help the Lord’s salvation extend to the ends of the earth.
Paul in today’s Second Reading seconds this lofty calling to serve and to shine. We serve and shine by seeking to do what the Lord asks of us and through striving to live a holy life:
In his initial greeting to the Corinthians Paul identifies himself as called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ because it is God’s will that he be one. We serve the Lord by doing his will.
He reminds the Corinthians that they are “called to be holy.” Through a life of holiness we become that light to the nations and help Our Lord bring that good work to completion in each person. The good work is not meant to just remain and be nourished in each one of us: it’s a gift God wants us to give to others as well.
Whatever our walk of life, God calls us to be holy, as the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, teaches us: “The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one—that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in His glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity”.
John the Baptist in today’s Gospel served the Lord as his prophet and knew part of his calling was to put the spotlight on Our Lord and his mission, not on himself: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”:
If John the Baptist shines in the fulfillment of his mission, he shines in order to light the way to Christ, the reason for his mission.
John is not just called to serve, but to shine. He does not just recognize in Our Lord the signs that the Spirit had promised him; he testifies to them so that others would also get the message.
A source of illumination draws our attention, but it also illuminates something else. Our Lord himself, later in John’s Gospel, would describe John as a burning and shining lamp, but that John was meant to shine on the path to Christ. John himself in today’s Gospel admits that the Lord outranks him before he existed before John was even created. The light of his mission pales in comparison to the true light that was coming to enlighten every man: Christ.
Many walks of life require a uniform: a fast food chain, military service, police officers, firefighters, priests, and so on. When you interact with something in uniform, either respectfully or disrespectfully, you are not just saying something about the person in that uniform, but about the cause the uniform represents. When you respect a police officer you are showing honor and respect for law and order, just as you’d be disrespecting the officer and law and order by rioting and throwing things at him in the street.
If you’re the one wearing the uniform you know you represent something greater than yourself. A fast food worker who treats customers courteously and professionally is not only appreciated as a person, but makes the business for which he works appreciated as well.
When the prophet Elijah was going to be taken up into Heaven he left his mantle, a sort of uniform for prophets, for his successor, Elisha, whom the Lord had appointed to take his place. It represented that he was acting on behalf of the Lord and his interests, and there was no worse fate than to be revealed as a false prophet. The other prophets recognized Elisha as Elijah’s successor because they saw the Lord’s power acting through him upon taking up Elijah’s mantle.
If someone doesn’t live up to the uniform they’ve received, the cause they’re serving will suffer. A believer doesn’t just represent himself: any cause for his glory or his condemnation reflects on God. God will glorify him to the degree that his life glorifies God; otherwise he’ll not only dishonor himself, but God as well.
Career planning is very important and shapes the decisions about where you’re going to live, what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it. When you consider your calling, so are considering something much greater and with much richer potential. Paul didn’t realize his calling to be an apostle at first. In the same letter of Paul we consider today he goes on to remind the Corinthians: “consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”.
You may not become a captain of industry or achieve the highest echelons of power in business or politics, but by living your calling, you give glory to God and yourself. If something is missing and you feel you’re caught up in the rat race, it’s time in prayer to consider your calling: what does the Lord want you to do with your life?