BAPTISM OF THE LORD – Year C – 13 January

Believe it or not this is the eighth time I have had to commit to print a reflection for the celebration of The Baptism of the Lord … and the third effort for Year C (or Cycle 3)! What more could I write about it? So, I looked back on the previous efforts – and discovered that there was still more for me to learn and discover!

The immediate challenge which emerged was the need for me to set out on another year’sdiscipleship and ministry. This applies to every one of us: yes, even for the folk who while readily recognising that they are disciples of the Lord, might not accept that they have a ministry. It is not only the ‘ordained’ who are ‘given’ a ministry – but every single baptised person has a ministry.

At once let us reflect on two factors which influence our approach to this. FIRST:discipleship is a ministry. You cannot be a disciple without a ministry. SECOND: we are not ‘given’ ministries. Rather, we ‘take on’ a ministry.

GIVEN = something rather passive, which very often evokes a certain element of ‘I had better do something about it’.

TAKE ON = something active, chosen, and ‘I want to do something’.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE

A priest who merely sees his ministry as something ‘given’ to him will, without a doubt, end up being BORING! Why? For the simple reason that he himself (will it ever be ‘she herself’?!) is bored! Exactly the same thing applies to the husband, wife, parent, teacher, doctor, nurse, or whatever. I have encountered, for example, presidents and chairpersons who are boring because they are bored. They may well be efficient but ineffective!

Even an aged disciple living in a retirement home has a ministry …. a ministry of welcome, humour, appreciation made known, and the communication of peace and equanimity. These are enormously valuable ministries – and opposed to an almost constant moan, gripe, and faultfinding!

Was Jesus ever bored? Did he not ‘take on’ his ministry? Come off the grass and give me a break! After HIS baptism, he ‘took on’ the Father’s plan. I may well, at times, feel tired, frustrated, or disheartened – but I refuse to be bored with anything that I have ‘taken on’. At our own Baptisms we, too, ‘take on’ the Lord’s plan for us. Never forget that this plan involves the overall ministry every one of us takes on and which is given a splendid, dramatic, and powerful, outline by ISAIAH in this Sunday’s Old Testament reading [40: 1 – 5. 9 – 11]. There we read that we, you and I, have to “prepare the way of the Lord … make straight … lift up … level … smooth out.” When we endeavour (thought not always succeeding perfectly) to do this, we must not doubt that “the Lord will be revealed.” This is the ministry of every disciple – and every one of us must know that we do not do anything alone. Hear clearly the closing words of TODAY’S PSALM EXTRACT [104 or 103]: “you send forth your spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

Our New Testament extract [TITUS 2: 11 – 14. 3:4 – 7] talks of our “regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit which is poured out upon us.” Of course, the first instance of this occurred when we were baptised and empowered to take on our discipleship of ministry – to the world and on behalf of Jesus Christ. Baptism is, indeed, a new birth – a new start which involves a specific focus and approach to life and living.

The baptism of John the Baptist was an opportunity for people to change their lives around, put the past behind them, and START AGAIN. In some strange, but real, way Jesus put the private, secluded, phase of his life behind him, and embarked on the public ministry he had taken upon himself in accordance with the Father’s plan for him. We, too, must learn to become more ‘public’ … more pro-active.

So, with us … today’s celebration challenges us to start again another year of discipleship ministry. The last words of THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 3: 15 – 16. 21 – 22] must provide us not only with encouragement but also with a powerful starting point.“You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” As the Lord took on this specific stage of life and living, he is made aware of the Father’s love and approval.

As we take up the year’s challenges, we must be aware of the fact that we are the beloved of our God, and when we embark upon our ministry of discipleship we have his approval.

LET US TAKE IT ON!