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“Hear the Word!” by Bill Ayres: The Baptism of the Lord


A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah
(Chapter 42:1-4; 6-7)
 
“Thus says the Lord: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have placed my spirit.” Who is this servant that the Lord says is his chosen one? Is it Isaiah, a prophet after him, or the Messiah? There are many schools of thought, but what is certain is that the early Church saw this mysterious figure as Jesus Christ. He is “a light for the nations.” He will “open the eyes of the blind and bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeons those who live in darkness.” The love of Jesus has done all that and more throughout the ages.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 9-11)
 
“The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Do you normally feel you are at peace in your life? If so, how do you experience that peace? If not, what is keeping you from that feeling, and how can you find peace?
 
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 10:34-38)
 
“Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered in the house of Cornelius, saying: ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts rightly is acceptable to him.” Who is Cornelius? We know for certain that he is a Gentile and that Peter is in this Gentile’s house when he makes it clear that Jesus came for all, not only the Jewish people. That is something we have mentioned in previous commentaries, because it is essential for understanding the history and meaning of the Catholic faith. This faith is inclusive, a joyful, hopeful community with a powerful message of unconditional love and a challenge to live in service to others, especially those in need.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 3:13-17)
 
“Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” John the Baptist was a big deal, a powerful preacher who had a large following and who baptized hundreds. Yet, he knew his role. At first, he did not want to baptize Jesus, because he recognized that Jesus was more important than him. It is not easy for an influential leader to know the importance of his own calling while deferring to someone who is more powerful. John was able to do it, because he did not let his pride get in the way of following Jesus. The leader became the faithful follower.
 
Jesus sought John’s baptism and took on the role of Suffering Servant that Isaiah foretold. Both John and Jesus had callings, missions in life. John could not be Jesus, but he had a most important role in preparing the way for Jesus.
 
Each of us has a calling in life from God. Sometimes it is not easily discernable but rather remote or confusing. We need to know that we, too, have callings and work to discover them several times in our lives. One’s calling may have several elements. A person often has a calling to be a spouse, a parent, a good trusted friend, a dedicated worker, and a member of one or more creative communities. Then, after many years of being faithful to those calls, they may change or evolve. There are new challenges and opportunities, but the experience of change can be hard to accept unless we see it as the next step in our following God’s call.
 
Where has your call led you so far? How have you responded to it? Is it evolving now? How are you dealing with the new direction your call is taking you? The key is to remember you are not alone. The Holy Spirit who lives in you will guide you. Try to stay connected to the Spirit of God each day, sometime, somewhere, in whatever way works for you.
 
I am very aware that I am at a point in my life that has brought major changes. I will try to follow my own suggestions and listen to the Spirit. Peace!
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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