Last week we celebrated the Epiphany – the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles – to the world. Jesus, the Son of God was revealed; people saw and believed. We were invited to consider how we will respond to that revelation. Will anything change in the way we act?
In our daily liturgies this week, each of the Gospels revealed a slightly different aspect of Jesus – his person and his ministry. We saw him as the promised one, healer, provider, teacher, Lord of all creation, and a person of prayer.
Today, in our reading from the prophet Isaiah God speaks of the Messiah, the one who is to come. He speaks of how he will provide for his people, he will be a leader for all people, of how we ought to seek him out, of how we should expect that his manner of being and doing is different from ours and of how we should expect results. The Messiah will achieve what he has come to do.
In the Gospel Mark gives us his account of the Baptism of Jesus. He tells us that John the Baptist has been at work as a prophet – calling the people of Israel to repentance, preparing them for the Messiah and baptizing them with water. Mark tells us that Jesus comes and is baptized by John and as he is coming up out of the water he is revealed as the Beloved, Son of God and the Holy Spirit rests upon him.
In our second reading from John’s first letter, the early Christian community is reminded of the life of Jesus and what it means; essentially, you are loved by God. The author tells the early Christians, because you are loved by God unconditionally, you ought to believe in Jesus and you ought to obey God. Obeying God means that they love others and that they take to heart all the evidence that God has given them regarding the identity of Jesus. Believing in Jesus will give them power and strength.
As 2021 begins we continue to struggle with the presence of the virus in our world, we continue to see violence around the world, we continue to witness people who lie, spreading misinformation for their own power and well-being, we witness the anger and the violence that comes from people who believe the lies, we witness a double standard – those who have power and those who do not., those who are white and those who are not, those who are rich and those who are not. We continue to witness the effects of global warming - significant changes in our weather patterns – Spain is experiencing snow this weekend, in amounts never seen before. We continue to witness a loss of jobs and we witness people doing what they want, totally disregarding the common good. We witness the ongoing disrespect of people who are different – racism and prejudice are alive and well in Canada and around the world.
On the one hand, these events are rather discouraging and we could lose hope. If we continue to take a long loving look at the real we find also much goodness. People making sacrifices to keep others safe, people being generous – giving even from what they need, people reaching across boundaries to care for others. There is much love in our world, in our parish and in our local community.
It is our belief that into the wonder and chaos that is our world at this moment, it is our belief that Jesus Christ comes. We believe that he touches our lives – he touches us. Because of our belief we say no to lies and misinformation. We refuse to follow people who are all about power and money. We look for ways to improve the lives of all people and not only those who are like us. Rather than blaming people for the situation they are in, we look for ways to lift people up. Christ came into the world not because everything was going well, he came into the world because there was chaos, darkness and struggle. Christ came into the world historically to save us.
Often times we as Christians try to create this little world where everything is wonderful and we try to keep out anyone who does not get in line. We busy ourselves with judging and excluding, we busy ourselves with making our lives better even if it hurts someone else, even if it destroys creation. We are called to be like Jesus, to do what he has done. Those of us gathered here physically, (those praying with us virtually) we believe in Jesus and we believe in our mission to be a loving, life giving presence in our world.
Because of our relationship with Jesus we have a power that we often forget we have – we are loved. When we realize we are loved we can do amazing things. When we realize we are loved we become super heroes and we share that love with others – we spend our lives for others.
Every time I baptize a baby I am amazed and impressed at the commitment the parents take on when they choose to have children. Those of you who have children, you know that you literally spend your life for them – you give yourself over and over and over again. You make sacrifices so that they might succeed, so that they might achieve their dreams.
Today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we receive the gift of our God – Jesus Christ. Today, we remember the powerful and transforming love that God has for Jesus, that Jesus has for us. When Christ came to earth God made a statement. God said to us, you are worth my very life, you are a part of me. Because we are loved, because we belong to God, because we are baptized, we are called to do what Christ has done – choose love, choose life for ourselves and for every person we meet.
As we walk away from this celebration of life, from this time of prayer, we look for ways to be a light in the darkness. God made a promise, Jesus made that promise real, John the Baptist recognized that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. Today it is our turn!
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Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI