Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Baptism of the Lord - Homily

Why do we want to love the poor, to help the lonely,
to console the sad, to heal the sick,
and to bring freedom to the oppressed?
Simply because that is what God does. Nothing else.
It is the very essence of Christ.
Christ taught us how he acts, how he lives,
how God loves – and we try to learn."
- Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, S.J.

Friday morning
sitting in the Arrupe Community library,
I overheard three Jesuits remark,
“Christmas is over”

I commented to one of my other Jesuit brothers
that Christmas isn’t over
and that Bill McNamara’s music selection
for Sunday mass
has us singing Joy to the World.

Immediately this Jesuit responded,
“C’mon Mike, Christmas is over.
You need to get a life!”

Well, excuse me, I do have a life …
three times over …
having kept 3 of my New Year’s resolutions,
a full 10 days into the new year.

I just wonder if this other Jesuit could say the same …

What of any of you?
Have you made a New Year’s Resolution?
Have you at all kept your New Year’s resolutions?
(Not surprising.)

Recently Northwest Cable News
reported that 2/3 of the US population
typically fall away from their resolutions
within 4 days of January 1st!

And the reasons for not keeping a resolution:

#3 – Failure to set up a support system …
#2 – Failure to be patient …
#1 – Failure to have an optimistic attitude!

Let’s face it …
starting something new
always proves to be a challenge.

Or as Fr. Pat Howell, my rector, often quips,
“You know all beginnings are hard!”

New Year’s resolutions are not any different …

And it is,
in all beginnings –
that we – as human beings –
strive to start over,
to make things aright,
to try things differently,
to improve on our way of living,
to recommit to who it is God calls us to be.

And often these beginnings can be very hard!

What we celebrate today – the Baptism of the Lord –
is all about beginnings!

At the juncture between Christmas and Ordinary Time,
we have an opportunity
to embrace a new way of living.
Let me suggest that what we celebrate today
encourages us to make a New Life Resolution.

The baptism at the Jordan signifies
a beginning …
the start of the mission of Jesus …
a fresh way of living …
a resolute way of living.

The plunging into the waters of the Jordan
awakens and turns his life in a new direction,
publicly confirmed by a voice
that probably reverberated
just as loud inside his very self
as it did among the throngs of people
gathered at the Jordan,

“You are my Beloved, with you I am well pleased!”

With that public affirmation … confirmation,
anticipated centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah,

“I formed you,
and set you as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon,
those who live in darkness.”

Jesus resolutely starts his journey toward Jerusalem,
with heartfelt passion …
Jesus lives into his call
of welcome, teaching,
healing, reconciliation, freeing oppression …
essentially his own “New Life Resolution”!

My friends,
this new resolution is not some age-old promise.

No, it is a promise that keeps on renewing itself
each time another person comes forward
entering the waters of baptism.

This promise will renew itself this coming Easter Vigil,
when twelve young men and women will assent –
one after another:

“Is it your will to be baptized in the faith of the Church,
which we have all professed with you?”

And with that one question
will come a resolute Yes!

And entering into the waters of the reflecting pool,
their lives will turn toward a new direction …
with the community gathered around the pool,
affirming their faith,
each one of them
will share with Jesus this new life!

Beginning to live this new life is not always comfortable!

Living the way of Jesus
will put each one of us in situations – almost daily –
Asked to step aside of our needs
to provide for someone else;

To challenge some injustice that is close to our heart;

Generously offering one year of service in place of a six-figure first time job;

To step up, speak a truth to a fellow friend
helping them break out of a destructive pattern of life;

To courageously stand within the culture confronting discrimination;

To be humble enough to step aside from
“my way is the only way”
and instead say “I am sorry!”

Indeed beginnings are hard
especially when living into this New Life Resolution.

How are we to live into this new life
we have each chosen through our baptism?

FIRST, we live this life together
as members of one body … the People of God …
encouraging one another along the way!

That is why we gather here week after week …
to hear our story;
support one another;
pray for the needs of those whom we encounter;
And we gather around this table
to be strengthened together in this meal we share.

SECOND, be patient!
Living into the New Life Resolution
does not happen overnight …
more often than not
we will make mistakes …
we will turn away from our resolution

I am often reminded of Pierre Chardin’s prayer,
Patient Trust, when he prays,

We are impatient of being on the way
to do something unknown, something new.
yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing
through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

Only God could say
what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you …

THIRD, let us commit ourselves to optimism,
beginning each day in gratitude
for the life God has given us;
and then to imagine each day our encounters
and how whatever we say or do on any given day,
helps to build up the Kingdom of God!

Then we could say, we indeed do have a life!

Mike Bayard, SJ
Chapel of Saint Ignatius
January 10, 2010

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