The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
(The Last Sunday in the Christmas Season)
(The First Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 (First Song of the Servant: he is called for the victory of justice)
or Isaiah 40:1-11 (Prepare the way of the Lord!)
Psalm 29:1-10 (The Lord will bless his people with peace)
or Psalm 104:1-4, 24-30 (God’s creation looks to him for sustenance)
Acts 10:34-38 (God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power)
or Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 (The grace of God has appeared)
Luke 3:15-22 or Matthew 3:13-17 or Mark 1:7-11
(Jesus is baptized; the Holy Spirit descends on him; the Father speaks: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him”)
Much of the richness of the Sacrament of Baptism is due to the fact that Jesus himself conformed to a baptism in the waters of the Jordan River by his cousin John, as recorded in all four Gospels. On this day, it is meaningful to recall the vows made in our name all those years ago (55 years ago this month for yours truly), and to all that becoming Christian means.
It is NOT one-sided. That is, while God is with and through and behind it all, his gift of free-will (free choice) means that we have a response to God and a responsibility to others. These, while seemingly clearly defined, are not so clearly executed.
Due to the advances of our technology, we see the world and its prominent people – the famous and the infamous – on our television and computer screens. We read and hear about them in the news. And what we see, read, and hear, can often leave us overwhelmed to the point that we overemphasize what goes on elsewhere and manage to neglect those things and people to and with whom God has placed in our lives. Parents, spouses, children, extended relations, friends, colleagues – all people we care about to a great extent but sometimes are left to fend for themselves when life is going through changes or maybe isn’t going as well as it could.
Put simply, there is no shortage of stuff for which to pray.
One part of how I define prayer is the acknowledgment that there is a Supreme Being, a Higher Power, a God whose omnipresence is key to guiding us through life, and especially those parts of it that are burdensome. Today, I am called to mention that which I know relies upon God’s hand to either improve or help accept those burdens. I mention them in with no particular priority, with this exception: in ordinary structured community prayer, Catholics usually pray first for the Church; then for the conditions of the world at large, then that of the nation; followed by special interests of the local community or parish, and lastly, for the sick, the dying, and the recently dead. Then, and only then, do we find time to think of our own situation. Often though, our situations become so large that they preclude any dwelling on the rest of the world beyond a passing thought. I don’t know about you, but while we can – and should – pray for the general peace and welfare of all the world, where does my prayer start affecting action, as it should?
It starts small. It starts within our smallest and most intimate circles of people and conditions we know. It has to. If we don’t have a handle on our own way of life, if we are not as lights shining brightly in our homes, how can we be light-bearers to anyone else?
And so today I offer prayer for what is on my mind, what is on my horizon, as I write.
- For my nephew celebrating his 34th birthday today as he struggles to cope with mistakes he made as a “prodigal” child, and to release him from feeling any sense of guilt from his cousin’s untimely death years ago.
- For my dear wife who, like so many women, gives selflessly to the business and vocation of motherhood and homemaking – so much that they struggle to find time to have to themselves.
- For my son, who must live life coping with who he is because he is autistic; and that he will find a loving, caring community who will accept him without trying to force him into a mold in which he can’t fit.
- For my parents, and especially my mother and mother-in-law, who are now struggling simply to live without physical or emotional pain and in peace.
- For my father and sister, and sister-in-law and her husband, who have undertaken the gargantuan tasks of directly caring for and coping with the illnesses my mother and mother-in-law now live through.
- For my brother, who for the majority of life has struggled with holding on to full-time work.
- That in this year that looks to be filled with many changes, not the least of which include changes in my position at work and the prospect of finding a more suitable home, my family and I will be guided and safeguarded.
- For general peace, good health, security, and happiness for people and families the around the world.
- That people will find God in their hearts.
In life we are taken from heights where we could seemingly touch heaven to depths some call a living hell. May I never lose sight that no matter where I am or what I do, you, God, are with me.