Gospel for January 10th, 2016: “The Preaching of John the Baptist” and “The Baptism of Jesus”
Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. 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. A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
I spent many years as a fallen away Catholic before recognizing the saving grace of my faith in the midst what could be called a mid-life crisis. So there is so much about the Catholic Church I once took for granted that I consider essential now. For me, today’s gospel highlights the sacraments, in particular baptism. I was once guilty of seeing the sacraments more as ritual and tradition than as the sacred gifts they are. These are moments where we as Christians are guaranteed to experience an intense communion with God. He is in our presence, and this is sacred nourishment for life.
Consider the events described by Luke that occurred when Jesus sanctified baptism by seeking this Jewish spiritual cleansing from his preacher cousin, John. “[H]eaven was opened,” “the holy Spirit descended upon him,” and God the Father spoke (21-22). Notice the direct interaction with God is visible in this gospel episode. As Catholics, we can’t afford to miss these life-giving opportunities. Granted, baptism, as well as confirmation, marriage, and holy orders, are once-in-a-lifetime sacraments. However, the eucharist is available daily and reconciliation at least weekly in many parishes. These experiences when sought out frequently arm us against the barrage of temptation to sin we encounter in our daily lives. When we are with Jesus, with feel His love and experience joy. I think about how that joy was replaced by worry and anxiety in the years that I did not seek out the sacraments regularly. It is very easy to think we are too busy for the sacraments. When we fall for that modern trick, we are sentencing ourselves to unhappiness in our separation from Jesus. I look at my former self and ask why? I can only thank Jesus for calling me home so I don’t have to continue to struggle as I did.