One familiar greeting which can begin a conversation is, “What’s new?” The year is definitely new and next weekend’s liturgy begins something new. In a sense it is the First Sunday of Ordinary Time, though officially it has a different name. What’s new?
There is much of “the same old same old” within us. The recent celebrations have not rearranged our reaction patterns. Our dog breakfasted on a one-pound box of expensive chocolate candy this morning and my anger feasted on punishing him by hitting him with the chewed-through and empty box. Somethings within us do remain solid. The inner keeps working to the outer. Religious rituals, devotional practices and good resolutions have a more difficult process of moving from the outer and influencing the inner.
We love progress, deepening, becoming more a better self. We live
toward our next celebration of an ever-new, but ancient ritual of
the solid love of God in the Eucharist. “It is always the
same!” We would like something new in the liturgy and perhaps
that would make us new, deeper, more virtuous. We take all that
is usual, predictable, “old” with us and what might
change, what might become new would be our acceptance of God’s
embrace of all that which we cannot change just yet. God’s
acceptance of us as we receive the Eucharistic Presence can be new
if we be honest with “What’s old?” I am still
mad at that dog-gone, candy-gone dog!
In our First Reading for this celebration of the Lord’s baptism we hear a description concerning a special individual. Israel, as a nation, is often referred to as a “servant of the Lord”, but not so here. This poem-prophesy is the first of four Servant songs picturing a person, who even from the womb, has been called for special service in the laborings of God.
This particular song presents us with both the gentleness of the
person who will do what the Lord asks, but also the mission of the
Lord’s doing. This called-person will be inspirited to bring
about a relationship between the Creating-God and the wide-world
which waits for recovery of sight and freedom from its imprisonments.
This mission shall be done quietly and without a shouting or display
of the Servant, but a manner wherein the Caller and Sender will
Within this context appears Jesus, Himself to be baptized by John. This is a purification ritual and, of course, Jesus needs none of that. He is a member of the Jewish tradition and enters the waters as Israel entered into its purification from slavery through their entering the waters of the Exodus. The something new and different occurs when Jesus rises from the river.
As the people of Israel reverenced themselves as the beloved and chosen of God, Jesus hears the divine designation, “You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” This is a private revelation which begins a public mission leading through His life, death and resurrection. As with John then, Jesus receives His name and ministry for life. The introduction, for Mark, is now complete.
John and Jesus seemed to know who they were and what they were to do just flowed from their identities. Most of us get our identities from what we do. Many of us eventually find out our real missions by doing what we do for a “living”. My father was a lawyer, that was his name, identity. While doing that for years, what he came to find was that his mission was to assist injured workers in receiving just settlements due them by the laws of the state of Wisconsin where we lived. It was only after many years that he came to accept that his work had become a mission of justice.
When we are baptized we begin the discovery of what God desires us to do so as to reveal the Divine Love and our belovedness. We might have to look backward to find out exactly what our mission was and is now presently. A prayerful, and perhaps amusing, thing to do might be to write down or imagine by what names or titles you “go-by”. The prayer will be to see if there are not various untitled, nameless missions embedded within that title. Jesus was named “The Beloved”, and He accepted all that He would do within that Holy Name. You might be Mother, Aunt, Teacher, Doctor, or “Joe the Plumber.” We could pray with all the kinds of missions on which we are sent, because we have also the title of being Beloved of God through our being baptized.
By our looking backward upon all these missions, we might the more know to whom and just how, we re-up to the ordination celebrated by our baptisms. It seems that the more we accept our real names, our reverenced titles, the more we will enter each life’s moment with a sense of being called out and called into. Our missions are not exactly what we do, but why we do. We are baptized by water of purification and the Spirit Who sends us all to just do something good.
“This is he of whom John said- I have seen and have given witness that this is the Son of God.” Jn. 1, 32
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