Tag Archives: baptism

Gospel Reflection for January 13, 2019, Baptism of the Lord

10 Jan

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 42.1-4,6-7; Titus 2.11-14,3.4-7; Luke 3.15-16,21-22

“As the people were filled with expectation and all were questioning in their hearts whether John might be the messiah, John answered ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.'” – Luke 3.16

No one works with greater zeal and tirelessness than John the Baptist to ready people for the messiah’s coming, so hard that many think he is the messiah. The baptism John offers people marks their repentance and turning toward God. The washing expresses their change of heart. Jesus discerns his own mission among these people seeking God and goodness.

When Jesus is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes upon him. A voice from heaven declares who he is: “My Son, my Beloved.” Our baptisms call us to join in Jesus’ mission. The Spirit comes upon us to inspired us to love and forgive one another as Jesus did, to share and make peace, to welcome all. It is a call to holiness.

What is holiness to you? How do you respond to this baptismal call?

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Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12.1-4; Luke 12.49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth…I have baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!”

(Luke 12.49)

When the evangelist Luke writes about A.D. 85, Jesus has completed his baptism — his suffering, death, resurrection, and return to God, but he has not come again in glory. Meanwhile Christian faith has spread not only among Jews but among Gentiles and created conflicts. Baptism is one such conflict. Among Gentiles baptism takes the place of circumcision but some Pharisees who have become Christians object. They think Gentiles should be circumcised and instructed in keeping the law of Moses.

The gospel anticipates dividing fires will persist. In his follow up the Synod of the Family that met in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis invites the Church today into tough conversations that air differences. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis invokes the principle that “time is greater than space.” He favors processes that make room over time for mercy and grace to work in our lives.

What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive, questions? How does time make room for grace to work?

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Gospel Reflection for January 10, 2016, Baptism of the Lord

5 Jan

Sunday Scripture Readings: Isaiah 40.1-5, 9-11; Titus 2.11-14, 3.4-7; Luke 3.15-16, 21-22

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

(Luke 3.16)

After the exile in Babylon many people return to the land of Israel, rebuild their city and temple, and revive their worship. Then Greek and Roman conquerors arrive, threatening the temple and the people’s religious identity. By the time of John the Baptist, people wonder where to look for salvation. If God’s salvation isn’t able to come through the land, or the king, or temple worship, or the law, then how and where will it come?

Into this very unsettled state of affairs arrives John the Baptist. No one works with greater zeal and tirelessness than John to make the people ready to welcome the messiah. He insists that God’s savior is near at hand and prods the people to keep looking. At his baptism Jesus comes out of the waters to be blessed by the Spirit and voice of God in his mission as servant and Son.

What do our baptisms empower? What does this action call us to live out? To what does it set fire in us?

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Love Made Seen

30 Oct
Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

I’m a sucker for the sacraments. They always make me cry. If done well, it really is Christ’s love made tangible in this place.

On Sunday our ninth graders got confirmed. I was asked to address them, so I had put a lot of time, into thinking about this specific group of young people and what it meant that they were affirming their baptismal promises. The fall of ninth grade is this very tender time for young people. They are thrilled about being in high school, but it still feels a bit foreign and intimidating. They are starting to cleave from their parents and find closeness with their peers. And at this particular moment, the church asks them to affirm the promises God made them in baptism. In this raw and vulnerable season of identity formation and growth, body changes and friend shifting, they acknowledge that God loves them no matter what. I looked them in the eye as I addressed them, hoping their hearts were open to hear:

Most of you probably don’t remember, but some crazy things happened at your baptism. Mainly, you were doused with water and God promised you that you’d be loved forever no matter what. With three dips in the font God whispered, “I love you. You belong. You matter.” Then the people who gathered looked at you, the one with the wet head and said, “Welcome to the family, kid.”

You showed up today. After taking another look at what God promised you in baptism, you’re here to affirm that. In a way you are saying, “Yep, I know the world thinks that what happened at my baptism was a little odd. I don’t know if I always believe all this stuff, but I’m here. I’m here for the ride because there is truth in these stories of ours and this community, this rag tag quirky community is home.

And the church is pretty smart to ask you to come back and look at these baptismal promises again right around now because, well, you are going to start needing them now maybe more than ever. The world is gonna keep telling you over and over and over again that you don’t matter unless you buy more makeup, grow taller, date the right person, graduate from the right college, make more money and above all, have a stellar following to follower ratio on Instagram. Most days the voices whisper these things again and again—you are insignificant, you are not enough. Other days the voices shout, “Be more, Be better!” It takes courage to be here, to study even the stories that don’t make sense and be critical of this human institution from the inside and commit to a life that does not put yourself at the center of the universe all the time. It is brave to believe in something. It is a risk to love. It is subversive to deny these whispering voices and stand in the truth that you are loved indeed. That you are, in fact, enough. That you do belong and you do matter.

You might be standing in the corner shaking your head and rolling your eyes internally just a little. You may be front and center singing your heart out. Maybe, like Jacob, your struggles are so visceral right now it feels like you are literally wrestling with God. Either way. God loves you like crazy whether you want God to or not. God is all wrapped up in your story. And when your story stops making sense, God will be there, and so will we.

Then they came up one by one, and their families and friends laid hands on them while they were prayed over. When else would this ever happen? And now, when the ninth graders may need it the most. For some young people, twenty others came up with them and put a hand on their head or shoulder, standing with them saying, “We love you. We are here for you.” Even thought they may be looking toward their peers for approval more so than their family, the families won’t let them forget, “You are loved. You belong. You matter.”

I sat and watched, one after another, families lay hands on the ninth graders. I cried, watching Christ’ love be made seen in this time and in this place. That’s the power of ritual, a break in the ordinary to reflect on the extraordinary love of God.

Oscar Romero Proclaims God’s Love

22 May

This Saturday, in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero will be an official candidate for sainthood. He was martyred while saying Mass in March of 1980. Like Pope Francis, Romero wanted a poor church for the poor. Go to the internet to read his story. Let this message from him resonate in your heart today and give you courage.Romero

Each one of you has to be God’s microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized. Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized. that is where the church is. There is a prophet here. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.

Gospel Reflection for January 11, 2015, Baptism of the Lord

7 Jan

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 55.1-11; 1 John 5.1-9; Mark 1.7-11

“You are my beloved Son.  In you I am well pleased.”

Mark 7.11

Mark’s gospel, the first to be written, begins with Jesus the adult, God’s beloved Son and servant, one with the Father and Spirit. Baptized Christians share Jesus’ identity. We are God’s beloved, whom Jesus calls to join him in the embrace of God. We are God’s servants, who share Jesus’ mission of calling all those we meet into this embrace. We are baptized into one faith, one Spirit–a communion that calls us beyond the limits of any one Christian denomination. We recognize our call to unfold Jesus’ servant story in our lives among the people of our world.

In what ways do your baptism and anointing in the Spirit challenge you to lead?

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A New Lent

6 Mar

At my grandparents’ house, yellowed palm leaves were seemingly ever-present behind the silver-framed mirror that hung on the wall near their front door. Immediately after Palm Sunday, the palms would add a splash of green to the mauves and light blues of the room. Yet as the church year wore on, the palms would fade to better match my grandma’s decorating taste. We always knew Lent was approaching when the palms disappeared, returned to my grandparents’ church to be burned into the ashes that would be distributed on Ash Wednesday.

via flickr user Stephen Cummings

via flickr user Stephen Cummings

Seeing the empty space behind my grandparents’ mirror always hit me in the pit of my stomach. I have always loved Advent, the season of joyful preparation for and grateful anticipation of the coming of Christ’s birth. Advent is a season I can nestle into, my excitement for Christmas mounting as the days grow shorter. But if Advent is my favorite church season, Lent is the polar opposite. Rather than a cozy winter’s night, Lent feels more like the desert into which the Spirit drives Jesus in this week’s Gospel—long, barren, desolate, and drab. It is not that I mind abstaining from meat on Fridays; it’s a great excuse to drive through McDonalds for fish fillets and fries. It is more that I do not like the feeling of Lent—the feeling of being down in the mouth, the attitude of being hard on yourself, and the undertone of punishing yourself for your sinful ways.

Lent is a season of conversion, and this year what I want to convert is my attitude toward Lent. I figure that Lent has been around a lot longer than I have, so maybe I just need to learn a little more about it in order to find a new way to approach this season. That is what I am going to do over the next six weeks in this blog. Each week I will consider a topic related to Lent, presenting some information about it as well as some ideas about how that aspect of Lent makes sense in our modern lives.

Recently I read something that already is renewing my attitude toward Lent. The key to understanding the Lenten season is Baptism. On a practical level, Lent is the time when catechumens, that is, those wishing to become part of the Church, prepare for the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation—that will be celebrated at the Easter Vigil. For the rest of us, that is, those who already have been baptized into the Church, Lent is a time to renew our baptismal commitments. When I think about Lent as a time to focus intensely on living my baptismal vows, it sounds like something I might be capable of doing.

As you begin the season of Lent, take a minute to think with me about our baptismal vows. How are you living them in your life right now? In what ways are you falling short?

  • Do you reject Satan? And all his works? And all his empty promises?
  • Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
  • Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
  • Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

If you answered no to some of these questions, or had questions about the questions (Do people still believe in Satan? Is there really a resurrection of the body?), that might be the place to begin your Lenten journey. Write down the questions you have; find someone you trust to talk to about your questions. Questions are a part of faith; we do not need to be afraid to bring our questions to God in prayer.

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, then there is another question: are you living these beliefs? If you are anything like me, this is where your Lenten journey begins. I might be able to say I believe all of these things, but…

  • Do I really live as if evil has no power or do I live in fear of evil?
  • Do I put my trust in God the Creator or do I trust in myself more?
  • Do I treat the world and everyone in it as part of God’s good creation?
  • Do I follow the example of Jesus Christ in how I treat others?
  • Do I really live as if Jesus died and was resurrected, ushering the new kingdom of God and releasing a well spring of hope?
  • Do I trust that the Spirit empowers me to follow in Christ’s footsteps?
  • Do I participate in the community of the Church, which includes all the faithful who have lived before us?
  • Do I treat myself as a sinner or as someone whose sins have been and will continue to be forgiven by God?

Beloved Children of God

10 Jan

In this Sunday’s gospel from Matthew, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, who had been performing baptisms for Jews who wished to repent of their sins. At first, John is uncomfortable with the idea of baptizing Jesus, since John had been preaching about the coming of someone greater than he, a person he now recognizes is Jesus. Jesus explains that this is how it must be done, and John concedes, baptizing Jesus in the river. After Jesus is baptized, we are told that “The heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.’ ”

Like many Catholics, I was baptized as an infant and thus do not have any of my own recollections about the occasion. I have the stories, the yellowing photographs, and the white knit dress that I wore to mark my official, sacramental entry into the family of God. But it was in my adolescence that I experienced a culmination of my baptismal experience.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined the spiritual team, a group of students who worked with the campus ministers at my Catholic high school to plan school masses, prayer services, and other events that had to do with the spiritual life of the students and the school. In retrospect, I am not quite sure why I joined. Besides going to mass with my family each week, I was not a particularly religious or spiritual person at the time. But I was struggling to fit in, and I guess I thought I should try out any group that would take me in an effort to find a place that helped me feel like myself.

Our sophomore team was in charge of the All Saints’ Day mass for the entire school. One of our responsibilities was walking in the opening procession, helping to lead the school in song. As I walked past row upon row of my sophomore classmates whom I considered the cool ones, my first reaction was mortification. I certainly would never fit in now that I had been seen singing religious songs in front of everyone.

Yet in the next moment, it was as if the heavens opened up. I did not see a dove descend, nor did I hear an actual voice. But I did feel God’s revelation to me, reverberating in my whole being: I was okay as I was (a modern day version of God’s affirmation that Jesus was God’s beloved child, with whom God was well pleased). I realized that I would never fit in, if fitting in meant being one of the “cool” students, and that was okay. It was okay because I already belonged; I belonged as part of the family of God. It was okay because God loved me for exactly who I was.

In baptism, we all become brothers and sisters with Christ. As Christ’s sisters and brothers, we also take on the status as God’s children. So what God says to Jesus at his baptism, God also says to us, all day, every day (even when we wear big pink glasses, clunky braces, and unfashionable uniforms, as I did in high school). God says to us, “You are my beloved child; with you I am pleased.” God is pleased with us not because of how we look, how much money we make, or even how much we care for others through our charity and justice work. God is pleased with us simply because we are who we are: God’s beloved children.

Do you know the story of your baptism? Take some time this week to review the story: find old pictures, ask living relatives about the event, etc.

When in your life have you felt most strongly and profoundly that you are a beloved child of God, with whom God is well pleased? Has there ever been a moment when it felt as if the heavens opened and God was communicating directly with you?

Gospel Reflection for June 3, 2012, Trinity Sunday

30 May
Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
Matthew 28.19
Christians follow Jesus’ example in naming God in intimate, relational terms. As baptized Christians, we follow Jesus in calling God Father; we claim kinship with God, creator and source. We claim Jesus as one of us, God’s Son, redeemer and liberator. We live in the Spirit, the animating giver of life, the sustainer and sanctifier, who urges us from within to participate in bringing to fulfillment all that God has begun in creation and revealed in Jesus the Christ.
What does baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mean to you?
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Gospel Reflection for December 4th, 2nd Sunday in Advent

28 Nov

John the Baptist said, “I have baptized you in water; the one who is coming will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1.8

John the Baptist preaches repentance and has people who repent wash in water to symbolize their resolve to turn toward God.  Bathing washes away the sweat, dirt, and smell of past work; it readies and revives the bather for new company and activity.  John calls people to go beyond keeping the law and open themselves to the reviving Spirit of God.  John promises one more powerful than he is coming, one who will baptize in the Holy Spirit.

What do you need to wash away to be open to God’s reviving spirit this Advent season? What relationships need reviving?

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