Born Again??? ~ Br. Michael Marshall, Novice

born again 1

Reading 1: Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:  Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; 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, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, 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.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

  1. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
    Give to the LORD, you sons of God, give to the LORD glory and praise, Give to the LORD the glory due his name; adore the LORD in holy attire.
    R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
    The voice of the LORD is over the waters, the LORD, over vast waters. The voice of the LORD is mighty; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
    R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
    The God of glory thunders, and in his temple all say, “Glory!”  The LORD is enthroned above the flood; the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
    R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.

Reading 2: Acts 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying:   “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.  You know the word that he sent to the Israelites  as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,  what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached,  how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.  He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.  John answered them all, saying,  “I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.  I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized  and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,  heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven,  “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

It seems so strange to have celebrated Epiphany last Sunday; a part of the story of Jesus as an infant, and now here we are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord when Jesus was an adult.  We do have the story of Jesus as a boy sitting in the Temple, which we cannot discount as important in the life of Christ, but this fast forward to his baptism as an adult is very significant because it is the event which transpires at the very beginning of Jesus’ active ministry.  It was not THE BEGINNING of the Christ-story, but a beginning of its own sort.

Most Catholics do not remember their baptism because it happened shortly after birth, yet some of us do remember our baptism if baptized later in life.  Baptism is a Sacrament which connects us to God, yet many of our Protestant Brothers and Sisters associate baptism as washing away sins, wiping the slate clean and righting our relationship with God.  Baptism is definitely part of salvation, and a turning point in which we say yes to following God by living a new life; something which some Christians refer to as being “born again” which I think has something to teach us.  As I stated earlier, baptism is a Sacrament and sometimes just seen as part of the initiation into Catholicism, but baptism is SO MUCH MORE, and I think that is why our Protestant Brothers and Sisters got it right.  It is not just a Sacrament of Initiation… It is a “born again” experience, a beginning to follow Jesus.  Our baptism is just like Jesus’ in the sense that our birth is the beginning of our life, yet our baptism is our first call to follow the Lord; the beginning of our active ministry whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

In most cases, the Prophetic Books speak about what is to come; what the Lord has planned for humanity, essentially pointing to the coming of Jesus.  Yet in the Reading from Isaiah for today, we see more than just a prophecy.  We see that the Lord tells the people that they are chosen as servants, called to do good works and bring people out of darkness.  They are to be of ministry to others.  By our baptism we are called just as the Israelites in the time of Isaiah were called; our calling is to help our neighbor, show the love of God through our thoughts and actions.  Our baptism is not just part of some checklist to become fully initiated as Catholics.  Thinking in such a way is not living as God intends.  We read in the Gospel that when Jesus was baptized, God was pleased by what took place; and from that moment, the ministry of Jesus started.  Jesus did not get baptized, and then nothing else happened.  So, how should we think about our baptism?  If we think of it as part of a checklist, might we change what we think by actually believing it is our “born again” experience that is the start of our ministry?  Just as God was pleased with Jesus, should we want God to be pleased in the fact we are baptized, and choosing to do minister to our neighbor?

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