May the grace of Christ lift you up!
The readings offer a complexity of themes that generally flow toward the coming of God’s manifold grace and power to enlighten and lead people into a relationship of peace with God. Jesus is depicted as stepping into the prophetic vocation where John left off, however with a nuance. With Jesus, the kingdom is AT HAND; it not coming in the near future as John would say. At almost the very start of his public ministry, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, James and John to follow him in a special way. They are called to be his disciples and for some mysterious reason, they leave everything they have to follow him. In reflecting on my own vocation and the mystery of the call that I received, I have to say that it is indeed a mystery. I had a great job and was doing well, making plans to build a house and suddenly, everything changed. I left it all behind, family, friends, pets, personal income, plus some hopes and dreams. Having said all of that, I can say with St. Paul that it has been at a cost but nothing compared to the great gain of the gift of God’s call to follow the Lord! It has been worth much more than anything I’ve left behind!
This weekend we are making a financial commitment to support our parish and the ministries that happen through life in the parish. In this effort, we express our discipleship and the willingness we have to make a real sacrifice for the future of the Church. For many of us, myself included, the idea that we should undertake this effort at this point in time was not a welcome one. But one thing that I have learned about discipleship is that however difficult it may seem at first, in a short time I adjust to the demands and grow in joy knowing that I serve the Lord and my sacrifice is known to him who promises to reward me 30 to 100 fold. I encourage everyone to consider what they are able to give. Many are ready to give and you demonstrate your committed discipleship repeatedly but there are others who give little or not at all. It shouldn’t be that way and it doesn’t have to be. We ALL have something to give! Our way to success and our future joy does not consist of the same people giving more; rather, it consists in more people giving! God’s continued blessings to you all! +++ Fr Peter
Peace and Grace to you!
Last Sunday was the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the readings told the story of when Jesus was baptized by John at the Jordan. We remember the biblical image parallels from the Exodus event and Jesus’ baptism: the column of cloud, the fire and the voice that led the people out of cruel slavery through the abode of the dead to the shores of a new life and relationship with God. At Jesus’ baptism, the column of his pure body embraces our corrupt human nature as he descends beneath the waters of our death brought about by sin, when he rises from the water, he raises his mystical body the Church to life! His body the column, his teaching the fire and light of our hearts and minds, his Spirit making our footsteps firm and guiding us in the path of faith to eternal life! Now, we return to a related scene as John publicly testifies that Jesus is the Son of God and he baptizes with the Holy Spirit!
The gifts of the Spirit that we are given through Baptism and Confirmation equip us for doing good works and building up the Body of Christ. The reading from Isaiah reminds us that we evangelize and demonstrate our discipleship through servant leadership.
Since the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the Church has stated that everyone, by their baptism, shares in the mission of Christ—to proclaim the good news to all people! Every Catholic is an evangelist and disciple of Jesus. There are new Catholics who wish to know more, there are those who want to be able to respond to questions from non-Catholics and there are adult Catholics who wish to have a deeper understanding of the faith. All have been invited to “come and see.” The study and understanding of the faith is not the special prerogative of priests and theologians. It is the grace of revelation and conversion given by God. Jesus did not give the mission solely to the religious and ordained so that they could fulfill the obligation for everyone else; all must work at it. All of us should be engaged in some kind of ministry and activity because life in the Spirit requires it. The greatest gift of ministry is not what we give to others but what happens in the exchange when they give to us. We experience concretely the divine blessing of the Church and the communion we have in the life of Jesus. All of us experience transformation, conversion, liberation and a deep sense of peace knowing that God is present and active. Of course this changes the way we act and the way we are perceived by others. We become one on whom the Spirit has come upon and remained. God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and grace to you!
This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord in which God reveals Jesus as the beloved Son. This event always calls us to reflect first upon John’s baptism of repentance (turning-to-God) and why Jesus was baptized by John. Even John questioned it. Jesus expressed his desire to fulfill righteousness, which means to fulfill God’s plan— to do God’s will. Jesus entered creation and was born a man so that human beings could share divine life with God.
Today upon his baptism, we see something new: Jesus is anointed with the Holy Spirit! In this event, Jesus makes the waters of baptism holy so that those who experience Christian baptism are reborn, cleansed from sin and re-created as children of God, united to God as members of Christ’s own body and sharing in the life of the Holy Spirit. As Christians we are enabled to live and love as God’s beloved sons and daughters and we are empowered to carry on the saving mission of Jesus in the world. We are called and sent to work for justice and peace and share the Gospel message so that other people may be free from error, darkness and sin. For many of us who were baptized as infants, we have never fully understood or embraced the radical character of our baptism. That is why Feasts like today’s and the renewal of our baptismal promises are so important. They help us to understand more fully what baptism really means. Such occasions also help us recommit ourselves to living more deeply the covenant of love as Jesus Christ taught us. The baptism of Jesus was the starting point of his public ministry when he taught the people about God and the moral life. He worked many miracles of healing to show that God’s power comes as love and mercy for the person who desires salvation. This was Jesus’ mission and ours too. Jesus still works miracles through those who do good works in his name. I hope that many of us have a sense of renewal and a spring in our step knowing that we share in such a beautiful and important work. May God bless all your efforts! +++ Fr. Peter
May the Light of All Nations give you radiant hope!
The Feast of the Epiphany is special to all of us who were never born Jewish because the promised Messiah came as the fulfillment of God’s love and mercy toward all people. St. Paul assures the Ephesians that they too, non-Jewish people, are coheirs equal in dignity as members of the one body sharing in the one promise of Christ through the Gospel. As I write this I have to admit that because I was born and raised Catholic, I really can’t imagine what it would be like to never have the Light of Christ; i.e., to never have known about Jesus or heard his teaching. However, I do recognize the increasing importance of our faith in my own life’s journey. Perhaps, like the story shows, the light of Christ increases with age and wisdom! For many, the light of faith does not appear until later in life and once recognized, they follow it to discover God’s tender mercy, love and salvation. I just read one such story. Brother Joseph Dutton was born in 1843 and became a Union soldier in the Civil War while yet a teenager. Most of his military career involved caring for the sick and burying the dead. Joseph did fall in love and married but was divorced less than a year later. For Joseph, the trauma of war and divorce took their toll and the darkness swallowed him as he turned to alcohol for the next ten years. Eventually someone gave him a Bible and as he studied it, he recognized that he was wasting his life. He decided to change. In 1883, on his 40th birthday he was baptized Catholic and a short time later entered a Trappist monastery. Joseph left the monastery and after reading an article about Fr. Damien’s work with the lepers of Kalaupapa he boarded a ship and sailed to Molokai. Br. Joseph cared for Fr. Damien and the lepers until he himself died in 1931 (not from leprosy). The point is Br. Joseph found Christ the true light and followed him. In doing this, he became a light to those who knew him. If people today are to find their way through the spiritual darkness of our world to the infant lying in the manger, it will be through the faith and example of God’s people, who busy themselves with living out the Gospel and bear Christ’s light! The Wise Men followed a star, Jesus has made each of us more than a star; we are vessels of his very own light and as we follow Christ the true light, we show and share it with others!
May Christ’s light be manifest through you! +++ Fr. Peter