Monday, January 09, 2017

A Light for the Nations

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. Is 42:6-7

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17


Initiation.  We are on our first day out of the Christmas season into “ordinary” time and on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, an ordinary day it is. 

Most of my generation of so-called cradle Catholics will never remember our baptism because it occurred before our first birthday.  We will remember the baptism of our children and grandchildren and those initiated at the Easter Vigil Mass when we renew the promises made for us at the intersection of the altar and the Baptismal fountain.

That day, we were initiated into the ranks of priest, prophet and king.  We get a sense of what that means in the words of Isaiah.  We were initiated into an activist religion.  Isaiah reminds us that it was the words from the Hebrew Bible that made up the Nazareth manifesto when Jesus publicly declared his mission.

Once we are in the grasp of the Lord, it is up to us to open the eyes of the blind, to free those who are imprisoned by society and sin, and to light the world with virtue.  When we do that, the heavens will open and the voice will proclaim that we, too, are beloved and pleasing to the Lord.

An article appearing in U.S. Catholic magazine by Jim Forest recounts the lessons he learned from Dorothy Day.  “We feed the hungry, yes,” she said. “We try to shelter the homeless and give them clothes, but there is strong faith at work; we pray. If an outsider who comes to visit us doesn’t pay attention to our prayings and what that means, then he’ll miss the whole point.”

Forest writes:

…Dorothy Day taught me that justice is not just a project for the government, do-good agencies, or radical movements designing a new social order in which all the world’s problems will be solved. It’s for you and me, here and now, right where we are.

Jesus did not say “Blessed are you who give contributions to charity” or “Blessed are you who are planning a just society.” He said, “Welcome into the Kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you fed me.”[i]

Once initiated, Jesus showed us the path.  As Dorothy Day said, “We are here to celebrate him through these works of mercy.”  Christ has left himself with us both in the Eucharist and in those in need. “What you did to the least person, you did to me.

“Where will you find the face of Christ today? On the Metro?  In the car weaving in front of you on the Beltway?  In the emergency room or the birthing room? 

Remember the Ideal talk on your weekend.  Our Ideal is reflected in how we spend our time, talent and treasure.  As Jim Forest reminds us in his U.S. Catholic article, “Change begins not in the isolated dramatic gesture or the petition signed but in the ordinary actions of life, how I live minute to minute, what I do with my life, what I notice, what I respond to, the care and attention with which I listen, the way in which I respond.”

How will you respond to the Baptism of Jesus today?  How will you carry out your own baptismal promises in apostolic action?

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