On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we conclude another Christmas Season. The week between Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord, the church condenses the ‘hidden life of Christ’ into one week! It has always been a bit confusing to me during the Office of Readings this week how the Church Fathers speak of Epiphany, the Wedding Feast at Cana, and the Baptism of the Lord as if they all happen at the same time. In reality, these individual events of the life of Christ speak to the profound mystery of the Incarnation – of how God is revealing His love to the world through Christ.
On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord all believers are called to recognize the Light and Life that are ours in Christ through our own baptism. The Church of the 21st century will do well to recognize that baptism goes way beyond freeing us from original sin! Baptism is the Sacrament in which Christ takes up His dwelling within us. Baptism is the Sacrament in which Christ draws us into the very life of the Trinity! Baptism is the Sacrament in which Christ shares with us His Mission, and extends the invitation to follow Him in fidelity all the days of our life.
Let us reflect practically upon this In-Dwelling of Christ.
In my chapel is a monstrance for Eucharistic adoration. The monstrance can at times be a distraction to me because it does not stand completely straight; it leans a bit to one side. This morning as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, and was once again distracted by this ‘imperfection’ of the monstrance, the Lord revealed another insight. The Lord is quite content to take up His dwelling within this imperfect monstrance. It revealed to me that I am not perfect either! And yet, the Lord is content to make His dwelling with me in a similar fashion.
We are all called to be humbly honest about our sinfulness; our imperfection before the Lord. Just as humbly, we are to recognize that He is quite content to take up His dwelling within us. Indeed, it is His presence within us that is our ‘perfection’ and strength; our virtue and holiness.
I was also reminded of one of my favorite movies, As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. In the movie, Jack plays the part of a writer who also has an obsessive/compulsive disorder. He is quite selfish, arrogant and rude, and most people find him highly offensive. Helen plays the part of a waitress who has a son with a severe illness. The long and short of the story is this, Jack falls in love with Helen.
Towards the end of the movie, Jack has to deal with this new reality of his being in love, and the way it is transforming him to change his ways. At one point, he tells her: “You have evicted me from my life! I can’t get back to it.” That is what love does, isn’t it?! This is what happens to us in our relationship with Jesus through Baptism. Jesus ‘evicts us from our life’ of selfishness and dysfunctional behaviors. So, let us fall in love with Jesus and discover the courage to become better people who live no longer for our self but for Him and for others.
At times, we can become frustrated with God and God’s ways. How often would we not prefer Him to speak directly and clearly; to act more concretely in our moments of need? Well, that is not God’s way. We have only to learn how to embrace this Reality. God’s way is described well by the Prophet Isaiah:
“Here is my servant whom I uphold, … he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, a smoldering wick he shall not quench…”
Just because God’s way is not our way, does not mean He is not still present and active in our life and in our world. Just because He speaks softly, does not mean He is not speaking. Just because His power is revealed often in silence and compassion does not mean He is not acting. We have only to accept God on His terms, to meet Him as He chooses to approach to discover His voice, light, and life.
Our imperfections are what make us approachable to others. Christ’s In-Dwelling Presence is what makes us attractive to them! Our witness of faith will attract others to Christ.
The Lord is indeed active! He says to each of us today what is spoken to His servant in the Prophet Isaiah:
“I have called you … “
“I have grasped you by the hand; …”
“I formed you …”
God, through Christ, continues to call us; to embrace us; to form us for the work of Christ in the world today. We are now the ones through whom Christ wishes to work in the world, for the ‘victory of justice,’ to be ‘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.” (Isaiah 42: 1-4, 6-7)
We are not perfect. We are sinners. But our God comes to us with love and mercy! He invades our life with His presence, to evict us from all that causes us to live for self alone, that we might live our life fully for Him and for others.
Our Dignity is in Christ. Fall in love with Christ, that this love may lead to greater fidelity and a more effective participation in His mission that we be Light and Life to the world.