Baptism of Jesus
Maybe you’ve heard the story about the poor wandering soul, lost in thought, who stumbled upon a baptismal service one Sunday afternoon. This was one of those “down by the river” sort of baptisms in the warm waters of the South. Curious about what was going on, this fellow walked right down into the water and stood next to the Preacher. When the minister finally noticed him, he asked the young man, “Are you ready to find Jesus?” With a quizzical look and some hesitancy in his voice, he answered: “Yes, Preacher, I think I am.” The minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up.
“Did you find Jesus?” “No… should I have?” The preacher then dunked him under for a bit longer, brought him up and said, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” “No … I haven’t, Preacher.” The preacher in disgust held the man under for at least 30 seconds this time; brought him to the surface of the water and repeated the question, “Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?” The confused fellow wiped his eyes and gasping for breath said,.. “Naw, Sir, are you sure this is where he fell in?”
That’s sometimes us, with our heads under the waters that wash over us … cares, distractions, prayer for others’ intentions, confused by the circumstances of our lives … looking for Jesus in muddy waters of our own making.
In the Summa Theologiae, (12th century theological summary), St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “Jesus did not become God’s son at his Baptism; he is the Son of God from all eternity. Nor did He become the Messiah at this point; he was the Messiah from the moment he became man. Baptism is the public manifestation of Jesus as Son of God and as Messiah, ratified by the presence of the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit descended visibly in bodily form upon Christ … so that we may believe him to descend invisibly upon all those who are baptized.”
We know the facts, right – but how slow we can be to absorb the meaning. We are witness to Peter’s awakening in the Second Reading from Acts. And what a day of enlightenment it must have been for him. He was deep in Lectio … the Scriptural account says: “He fell in to a trance and saw a vision in which a sheet came down from heaven full of all kinds of animals. God told him to get up, kill, and eat whatever he wanted.
What a surprise that must have been – now he could taste foods he’d been forbidden under Jewish law. Of course, God wasn’t really concerned that Peter could enjoy his first ham sandwich. God was teaching Peter, and us, that there is no distinction between “clean” and “unclean” neither in animals nor in people. The almighty’s plan of salvation wasn’t just for the Jewish people; it was for the Gentiles – for everyone – everyone is included in God’s far-sighted providence.
You’ll remember the story as it continues in Acts. The very next day Peter “got ready and went” to the home of Cornelius and “some of the believers from Joppa went with him…. Cornelius met him, fell at his feet and bowed down before him. But Peter made him rise: Stand up, I myself am only a man.” Cornelius related what led to his requesting Peter’s visit, ending his story with these words: “Now we are all here in the presence of God, waiting to hear anything that the Lord has instructed you to say.” Sounds like the sentiment of an opening to any Lectio time: “I am here, Lord, in Your presence, waiting to hear anything You are ready to say to me.”
The Cornelius story is the lead-in to Sunday’s Second Reading when Peter shares his awakening, “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis…. (he continued) You know the message that God sent to the people … You know the great event that took place throughout the land. You know about Jesus of Nazareth and how God poured out on him the Holy Spirit and power. We are witnesses of everything that he did.”
If you continue reading in Acts, beyond tomorrow’s selection, you’ll see – as Paul Harvey used to end his TV evening news – you’ll “know the rest of the story.” While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening.”
We hear the same message from St. Paul in his Letters to the Ephesians, Galatians and the Romans when he writes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” And isn’t this same message in the Holy Rule? It’s true that in Chapter 2, Benedict is directly addressing the Prioress but it’s a top-down principle and, with the rotation of roles in monastic life, is intended for all. “We are all cautioned “… to avoid all favoritism in the monastery … “not to love one more than another.” Benedict echoes Paul when he writes: “One born free is not to be given higher rank than one of lowly birth … for God shows no partiality among persons.” Step by step, Benedict leads his followers from non-partiality in Chapter 2 to the ideal of mutual obedience and good zeal (in the closing chapters of the Rule): Deference, Respect and the pursuit of “nothing whatever to the Love of Christ.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
On Monday we begin what the Church refers to as “Ordinary Time” – Oh, if only! But the COVID and unrest in our country still rages … What’s the psalmist say “like a roaring lion.”
Praise God with us – we are grateful – that at Holy Name Monastery, we have received our first dose of the COVID Vaccine – knowing full well we still need to practice universal precautions with lots of extra hand-washing and marked social distancing.
We look forward the time when we can open our doors and welcome guests.
Thank you each for your loyal friendship, support and prayers.
Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
First Reading Isaiah 47:1-4, 6-7 Second Reading Acts 10:34-38
Gospel Mark 1:7-11