A story of radical kinship, one who was ordained as “A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare[ing] the way of the Lord, mak[ing] straight his paths.” (Is 40:3, Mt 3: 3) and the One who was born into human history to reconcile creation and restore peace. Today’s readings remind us who we are created to be, how we are to set out into the world, and they give us an example of how Jesus calls us to serve in an extraordinary capacity.
The Baptism of Jesus is our baptism. It is a calling forth of a servant with whom God is well pleased and in whom the Spirit rests (Is 42:1). Let us not forget that God is well pleased with each one of us and the Spirit is with us! Jesus’ baptism marked his entry into public ministry, a radical ministry of compassion for the marginalized and imprisoned. A ministry of truth and healing with a message of peace. A ministry that was attacked and subverted by the most learned of religious leaders. A radical ministry that has spanned the test of the ages giving us hope to persevere through challenges and celebrate the joys of our lives while we continue to love and be loved by those whom we encounter.
As I prayed with these readings, I was struck in a particular way by the interaction between John the Baptist and Jesus. That day, on the Jordan River, the missions of two cousins met in a seemingly extraordinary request, baptism for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. John, stunned asks “why are you coming to me?” He knew his passion and purpose was to “prepare the way” for Jesus. I can imagine that this request from Jesus felt daunting. I wonder if John felt inadequate to complete the task. When I put myself into this story, I imagine my reaction would be to say, “that’s above my pay grade” or “not my job.” This is usually my initial reaction when I’m out of my comfort
zone or when the path I had envisioned is drastically changed. It’s my way of relinquishing responsibility to those whom I think are better positioned for the task at hand.
Was this to be the day that John’s mission ended, and Jesus’ began? I don’t think so! Jesus’ request invites John into a new purpose. He says to John “thus it is fitting for US to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15) Jesus’ invitation pointed to John’s innate holiness and ability to serve God. It recognized John’s role in preparing the way and called John into service with Christ.
About six years ago, my son, began having seizures. He was 3 and a half years old. He had a great personality although he was strong willed and was developing right along with his preschool cohort. Within days of his seizures and starting medicines to control them, his life and mine changed drastically. He stopped meeting age appropriate developmental milestones and his behavior became combative and impulsive. Within a year Duncan was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder on top of epilepsy. I started relinquishing my responsibilities as a mother to doctors and therapists. I thought there was no way that I could be enough for my son. I was WAY out of my league! As time went on, I began to trust that I knew what was best for Duncan and that I know him best. This newfound confidence helped me guide discussions with his support network and become an active part of his learning and growing. I reclaimed my “first teacher” role. When reflecting on the last 6 years in context of John & Jesus’ relationship, I realize all of Duncan’s doctors, therapists, teachers, and my support network accompanied us as we forged a new path. I did not give up being Duncan’s mom, in fact I took on the role of advocate. I was being called into a radical and challenging new journey with my son. Jesus invited me to work with him to grow in holiness and cultivate Duncan’s holiness. Christ has presented me opportunities daily to recognize my own worth and abilities while creating space for Duncan to become an independent, funny and smart 9-year-old. While there have been many successes in the last 6 years there have also been difficulties and lessons in humility.
It is for this purpose that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Baptism. The Gospel calls us to live a life which will challenge us and push us out of our comfort zones. At our baptism we are claimed by Christ and restored to the holiness which reflects God’s image. We are given the graces we need to follow Jesus and are anointed into service with Him. With faith we step forward each day to do important work that might very well be above our pay grade. However, we do so with the knowledge that God has “called [each of us] for the victory of justice…as a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, and to [bring prisoners and those who live in darkness out]. (Is 42:6-7).
Today we celebrate Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. Let us also take time to contemplate our own baptism and re-commit to living our baptismal call daily. As we work for justice in our own way, let our immediacy of action keep Christ’s radical message of truth smoldering in our hearts and the hearts of those we meet.
My dear sisters and brothers my prayer for you today is a humble knowledge of your own dignity as you work for justice and a recognition of the gift of dignity that you give to others by your love. ~Amen
Jane M. Cruthirds
Jane is a mother and Theology teacher living in Louisville, KY. Her joy is raising her soon to be 10-year-old son, Duncan. Jane’s professional ministry focuses on providing religious education and service-learning opportunities to students at Sacred Heart Academy. Sacred Heart Academy is an all-girls Catholic School in Louisville, KY. She is an active member of St. Michael Parish in Jeffersontown, KY where her stewardship of time and talent is proclaiming the Word of God, making a joyful noise with the adult choir, and helping adults in the parish to learn more about their faith. Jane is also a veteran of the United States Air Force. She earned her Master’s in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University – New Orleans where she was honored with the Loyola Institute of Ministry Scholar Award.
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