The Baptism of the Lord
Wade in the water.
Wade in the water children.
Wade in the water.
God’s gonna trouble the water.
So began Br Bernier, singing acappella, the old Black spiritual. The words echoed in the church and in us. Then he mentioned that Simon and Garfunkel “tried to make a bridge over the troubled water”. For don’t we want to avoid the “troubles”?
“Jesus says, I will trouble the water for you”.
In Advent we read from Isaiah, actually three different “Isaiahs” who preached during the coming downfall of Israel, during the time of captivity and finally during the restoration. The message delivered was that Israel was not abandoned, that the people must turn around and live the commandments.
That message is for us too. God has not abandoned us. In the midst of the turmoil of our country now, God is faithful. Even in the violence, vitriol on both political sides God is present. God asks us now to turn from the divisiveness and as in the beginning of Advent, “live fully the gospel”.
Baptism come from the Greek meaning “immersion”. We are immersed in the “troubled waters”. There we die with Christ to rise with Christ.
The first manifestation of God’s presence in this Christmas season is with the birth of the Christ child. There we behold the face of God. Br Bernier again reminded us that the angels went to the “anawim”, the shepherds who represented the forgotten, the poor, the unclean. It was to them the angels told of the birth of the Savior. They heard the message of joy and went forth to tell of this good news to all they met. Br Bernier asked, “Are we going to do that today?” We have an obligation to say what God has done for us and will continue to do.
The second manifestation comes during Epiphany. The magi go forth on a journey of discovery and conversion, following a star. When they arrive at the manger they prostrate themselves. Their gifts foretell the death of Jesus. When this “king” died, he died for us. Br Bernier asked, “How wise are we in seeking the star that leads to Bethlehem, to each other? “ We are again reminded to preach the gospel, the good news of Christ’s birth, the Emmanuel, God with us.
The star is all about God, not us. The star is now the Baptism of the Lord. Br Bernier asked how many of us knew our own Baptism date. He did; none of us did. He suggested we find our Baptismal certificate and celebrate the date that we were baptized sacramentally as a “child of God”. We may not have experienced the opening of the skies, but we were anointed into God’s love and acceptance. We were also the “beloved” of God.
If we accept this sacramental reality then we have a responsibility. Br Bernier stated that our worship and reception of communion was “the beginning” of our co-operation with God. “But this holy ground only makes sense when we go out.” So we return to the shepherds, those who had been first told of the birth of Christ and took the good news out to the world. Yet we have traveled beyond the manger this Christmas season. The waters of Baptism remind of us rebirth. We are invited to “wade into these
troubled waters”. Br Bernier reminded us not to be afraid. Jesus is our model. He went into the troubled waters spreading the good news of God’s love and so can we.
Reflections: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 20, 2020
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord”. If we would contemplate that statement every day it would help guide us in our prayer and actions. Brother Akolla began his homily focusing on how we live in a merit based society. We work to achieve success and monetary reward; we study to achieve good grades which we believe lead to career success etc. We believe in “quid pro quo”, what for what; I should receive a benefit for my effort.
Emphatically Br Akolla stated “God doesn’t work that way”. God is generous beyond our understanding and gives us what we don’t merit. Depending on whom you identify with in the gospel reading, the
workers who toiled all day, or those hired toward the end of the day, we experience God’s generosity very differently. We only see the griping of the full day laborers, who expected to be paid more than the other workers. (Mt 20:1-16a). The landowner, replies “are you envious because I am generous?”
God’s justice is not based on merit, but on mercy, God’s faithful loving kindness. So as God is patient and kind to us, we are asked to be patient with others. We are all aware of our failings, of our countless goals to “do better” and repeated slips. Br Akolla reminds us to take comfort, “God says, ‘I am not finished with you yet,’”
Our response to God patient kindness is to model it with others after receiving it wholeheartedly within us. We are invited to kingdom living by remembering we are all created in the image and likeness of God and therefore worthy of respect from each other as equals. Br Akolla reminded us again to be people of action. In the gospel, the landowner hires more workers from the marketplace, asking them “Why do you stand here idle all day?”
The question Br Akolla put to us is is “What are you doing lately to build the kingdom?” . How have we “built up” our brothers and sisters. What have we done for the “least of them”. How are we praying and serving the sick, the unemployed, the forgotten, and marginalized. He reminded us we cannot be “on the sidelines concerning racism”.
Finally, he invited us to notice that a grateful heart “keeps us from envy”. Envy separates us from God and our neighbor. It blinds us to the goodness of our lives and all the gifts we have received.
May we remember the goodness of God, the wonder of God’s creation, each of us and our sisters and brothers throughout the world. May we go forward in our lives with grateful hearts and treating each other with respect and loving kindness.
Peace, Anne Butts
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 13,2020
Since I did not write an entry for last week, I will include some of Brother Marva’s reflections here also. He presided at the liturgy last week and today. Outside, the cool breeze sometimes mirrored his statements about us not being in control. We had to stake down the tents before his homily because
the “Spirit” in the form of a strong wind threatened to topple his covering.
He reminded us that last week’s gospel was the roadmap for forgiveness, encouraging us to address our grievances directly, one on one, with the person involved instead of speaking about them to others as a first recourse. Today’s gospel focused on the frequency of our forgiveness. In the gospel, after hearing the importance of forgiving our neighbor, Peter is asking “Do I really have to keep forgiving for as long as I have to?” Jesus’ “No” is really a “Yes”. Brother Marva emphasized that Jesus reminded Peter to “do more” forgiving—“seventy-seven times”, a never ending process.
Last Sunday Brother Marva caught our attention with Tina Turner’s hit song “What’s love got to do with it” remarking that Paul’s letter to the Romans might have a title “love’s got everything to do with it”. It is stressed again in the readings today. Sirach calls us to “Remember your last days, set enmity aside” in order to receive God’s mercy by granting it to others in the form of forgiveness. Holding grudges and fueling our anger with resentment controls us after a while and destroys the bonds of love. How many of us have witnessed peaceful deaths after moments of reconciliation. Just as the gospel’s indebted servant was forgiven by his master, we can remember the unconditional love and perpetual forgiveness of God. Then, unlike the servant, we are charged with passing on this loving forgiveness to others.
As Brother Marva mentioned last Sunday and today, forgiveness is hard. Often, we cannot believe God could forgive us, either through the sacrament of Reconciliation or in our private prayer. He said, “we are asked to let go of our ‘stuff’ so we can release the burden in others”. For as St Paul wrote in Romans, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”. We think we are in control, but we are not. We are invited to examine our behavior and relationships and do the hard work of asking and granting forgiveness. We ask it of God, ourselves and each other. We commit to moving forward each new day, leaving behind our old habits so we don’t fall back to old behaviors. The hope of today’s message is “no matter how hard or difficult our lives feel, no matter how we fail, God forgives and loves us over and over”. Can we live fruitfully to do the same?
Peace, Anne Butts