Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hearts Set on the World to Come

The Baptism of the Lord in C
            I was very happy to see that the Holy Father used the readings offered ad libitum for Year C this morning for his celebration of the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. We need to hear much more often the Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to Titus and to us:
            “When the kindness and love of God our savior for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our savior. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.”
            I find these words as calming and reassuring as the sinking Peter must have found Jesus’ grasping him when fear of the wind and waves distracted him from the Lord Who bid him to come to him across the waters. Really? Yes, really! St. Paul’s words flesh out for me what is meant by the expression “You are loved by God”, better than a hundred PowerPoint presentations with puppies, kittens, flowers, butterflies and little angels with bows and curly hair… And I mean no disrespect for all those who find consolation in such pretty things. Just think: “it was not because he was concerned with any reason except his own compassion that he saved us”! You are entitled to your own opinion, but these words move me.
            The point is that these words give my life trajectory. Apart from those limit situations in life where we must deal with fear or despair, I am becoming ever more aware of the amount of entertainment or distraction out there which can break my concentration or focus, much like the “bread and circus” which the early Church anathematized for its followers because of the dulling or brutalizing effect it had on the baptized. Even today the “world’s” family filters are not necessarily discerning enough to block out all those things which can dull my awareness or turn my head; the filters provided by Google, YouTube and my friendly neighborhood cable company are not really able to aid me in my search or keep me on track for eternal life. What to do?
            Pope St. Gregory the Great was among those former monks who bitterly missed the silence and contemplation of the monastery, recognizing in the office of bishop certainly a divine calling, but one which he considered more difficult to live out than that of the cloister. Others would contend that the rarified atmosphere of the monastery or the desert hermitage can be eminently more dangerous because of the way the struggle to opt for the Lord in all things is played out as it were someplace between earth and heaven.
            I really only have one tiny insight to share and namely that if in the midst of life we can be mindful of the Father’s compassion manifest in the Son, Who sanctified the waters of the Jordan and gave us cleansing unto eternal life in Baptism, then we have the wherewithal to discern, to choose, to walk the stormy seas of this life without going down into the depths.
            My wish for all those out in the world is that they and we might have a full and active life without bartering our birthright in Baptism for any old bowl of porridge… Happy conclusion to the Christmas Season and Happy return to an extraordinarily rich in graces Ordinary Time!

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