|Readings:||Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7
|Date:||January 11-12, 2020, Baptism of the Lord, Cycle A|
Today's feast of the Baptism of Our Lord is a very challenging feast. At least it should be because fundamentally it reminds us of how we will be judged at the last judgement. You see the primary criteria for our judgement will be how well we carried out the particular mission God has given to us.
How many people here have been explicitly commisioned to bring people to Jesus, form disciples and transform the world?
One of the first questions I ask the parents who bring their children for baptism is: Why are you bring your child for baptism; in other words what is the purpose of baptizing your child?. Without exception over the last 27 years, after a little thought, the parents say baptism removes original sin.. And of course they are right baptism does remove original sin.
But if this Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord tells us anything it is that the primary function of baptism cannot be the cleansing of sin because Jesus had no sin. So what is the primary purpose of Baptism. In the instruction at the start of the baptismal rite, the Church points out that the water symbolizes our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. In other words the water represents the tomb of Christ. We go down into the tomb to die to our false self so that we might rise again in new life in Christ. Then we came up out of the waters of baptism, and as you have seen with baptism after baptism, we are immediately anointed (Christened) as priest, prophet and king, the roles we take on as we participate in Christ's mission. We are not to be spectators but participants in this mission. And after that anointing we put on the white baptismal gown which represents putting on Christ so that we now live as Christ lives, participating fully in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Christ lives to transform the world, to save the world. So those of us who have been baptized in the Catholic Church, have been explicitly commissioned to bring people to Jesus, form disciples, and transform the world. And at the end of time we will be judged primarily on how well we carried out that commission; not on how many time we went to Mass or said our prayers or even how good we were. Not that those are not good things but the criteria will be: how well did we bring people to Jesus, form disciples, and transform the world? See why I said this is a very challenging feast?
Jesus is baptized as a sign that he is starting his public ministry. Jesus headed out to the desert after his baptism to reflect on that mission and to prepare himself. Now we are called on to do the same. Have I really spent any serious time and focus on discerning how God is calling me to participate in God's mission to save the world? Do I continue to prepare myself to participate effectively?
We are entering a new phase of being Catholic, starting 10 years ago in this Archdiocese and more immediately in this collaborative. This means that each one of us is called to actively participate in the mission Jesus gives us; Jesus commanded us: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:17ff)
This year all of our collaborative energy and attention is focused on carrying out that mission we were given in baptism by bringing people to Jesus, forming disciples, and transforming the world. Have you noticed that there are fewer people at Mass these days? Who's job is it to fix that? Yours and yours and mine. If we want more people to attend Mass, each of us has to invite someone or someones.
We can have no pretensions that this is the work of the clergy or religious or some select few. Each one of us who have been baptized are responsible for the transformation of the world. So let me ask again:
Who here has been explicitly commisioned to bring people to Jesus, form disciples and transform the world?
And there is no better way to start than the celebrate this Eucharist as missionary disciples of Christ, who comes to save the world.