Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pointing to Jesus

These Sundays in “ordinary time” call us to grow in our life of discipleship with Jesus.

John's Baptism of Jesus
 In the Gospel, when John saw Jesus on the banks of the Jordan river, Jesus changed John’s life forever.  Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, was about to open up to us new dimensions of life beyond death.

Can you think of an experience that changed your life, an experience that made you see things differently?

Helen Keller had such an experience.   Keller, in her autobiography, wrote about the day the outside world broke into her closed world.  Her catalyst was water, an essential element of life, which relates to baptism. Helen described the experience that changed her life forever:

“My teacher, Anne Sullivan, placed my hand under the spout.  And as the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other hand the word water, first slowly, then rapidly.
“And then suddenly…somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.  I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand...I left the well-house eager to learn….” Everything had a name.

Now, think of our own rebirth in the waters of baptism.  The experience of water changed our life forever. We became disciples of Jesus, on our journey to the eternal dwelling place of God, with Jesus as our mentor and teacher and companion.

John points out Jesus as the Lamb of God, an allusion to the Lamb in the Passover meal and the sacrificial lamb in temple worship.  John saw Jesus coming up out of the Jordan waters and the Spirit of God confirming Jesus as “Son of God.”

Now what was John's vocation or calling?  To point to Jesus as the messiah.   We might ask whether we, through who we are and what we do, point to Jesus.

What is John doing?  Baptizing, inviting people to orient their lives to God.

Baptism is a gift from God and a rite of initiation into the Catholic community.  Why be baptized? We first have to understand who we are in relationship to God.  At birth, we lack God’s life within us. The Book of Genesis captures this lack: man and woman fell out of a relationship or friendship with God.  How?  We really don't know.

But then God became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.  Paul in his letter to the Corinthians explains that God through Jesus by the power of the Spirit has made us God’s adopted sons and daughters.  Yes, God became who we are so that we might become who God is.

That’s a huge gift.  Paul urges us to live a holy life worthy of our status.

The early Christian candidate stepped down into a pool of water and then came up, symbolizing a dying to a self-centered life and a rising to a God-centered or other-centered life with God.  By the eleventh century, a millennium after John the Baptist, pouring water on the head became the common baptismal practice.

But now back to the one question we might ask ourselves in light of John's Gospel: do we point to Jesus through who we are and what we do?

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