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In the scripture readings used this Sunday for the feast of the Lord’s Baptism we are faced with a variety of phrases and verses which fit so well with this Jubilee Year of Mercy inaugurated by Pope Francis on the 8th December last year.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly … and cry to her that her warfare is ended. … he will gather lambs in his arms … and gently lead …”
[see the OLD TESTAMENT READING – ISAIAH 40: 1 – 5. 9 – 11].
OUR PSALM [104 or 103]
tells us “all of these look to you to give them their food in due season. You give it, they gather it up; you open wide your hand, they are well filled”
NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [TITUS 2: 11 – 14. 3: 4 – 7] records that “when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us … in virtue of his own mercy.”
Finally, see how the above verses seem to foreshadow the Father’s description of Jesus the Lord as recorded in
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 3: 15 – 16. 21 – 22] – “you are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
What is it in the loved Son that pleases the Father if not the Son making the loving kindness and mercy of God a reality in our lives? If we look to him, he provides what we needand all we have to do is gather it up. All this is food for us which is available in due season (as we stand in particular need of it). In all circumstances he comforts, gathers, and gently leads.
THIS IS THE CHRISTIAN GOD INTO WHOSE LIFE AND LOVE WE ARE INTEGRATED AT OUR BAPTISMS.
IS THIS THE CHRISTIAN GOD IN WHOM WE TRULY BELIEVE?
If it is not then we are more than likely going to face difficulties in dealing with this year which presents us with Luke’s version of the Gospel which is, in its basics, a record of the HOSPITALITY GOD-IN-CHRIST OFFERS.. It is the hospitality of mercy to which we are invited. The Lord invites us to receive this hospitality but also to give and share it with others. It is so easy for me to seek from some individual mercy from one individual on the behalf of another whom we love and care for. However, how good am I in responding to similar requests made of me?
We must always remember that mercy is essentially linked with forgiveness and genuine forgiveness must be sought in very clear and specific terms as well as action. Sorrow and regret has to be declared in tangible, genuine, terms. Mercy is a fruit to be reaped when it is ready to be received.
Now I want to connect all of this with our Christian Baptisms and a powerful warning Pope Francis gave while opening the Holy Door and inaugurating this Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy. He warned that unless we really understood and accepted the true meaning of God’s mercy we become
“slaves to the institutions of the Church.”
Baptism is not an ‘institution’ of the Church. It is a Sacrament, a vehicle of God and, as all the Sacraments, a source of encouragement and power to live the life of a Christian disciple. This living gives us direct access to
THE ONGOING AVAILABILITY of being forgiven, of receiving mercy at all times and circumstances. However, we must enthusiastically accept “training … to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.” (see our New Testament extract.) Yes, Baptism can be seen as ‘allowing’ us to ‘do’ the other Sacraments as they come along – like slaves of ‘things’ that have to be’ done’ because the Church ‘says so.!
Baptism does not make us passive recipients but involves each one of us in the active role of preparing the way of the Lord for others, making their way as smooth and level as possible, revealing the Lord by feeding and gathering, carrying them when necessary, and leading gently.
(see our extract from Isaiah.)