Baptism of the Lord B – Fr. Rick Sherman
January 10, 2010
Is 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Mk 1:7-11
Thus says the LORD: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him…. You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
“Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit….”
Today’s readings were especially designed for us in the times we are living in…our historical circumstance…
You have noticed that in the USA, the nation we all know and love, all is not merry and bright at the end of Christmas season nor is it even peaceful and calm. This past week has been surreal as the unthinkable breach of the US Capitol occurred while we watched it unfold on live TV. This happens in other countries, but not here. We’re the good guys…and the good gals.
Along with the global pandemic and the related acceleration in economic problems, we now have even more dysfunction, almost disaster in our governmental process. How could all this possibly happen in a nation UNDER GOD promising liberty and justice for all? We’re mostly good people. In fact, when polled, most Americans still proclaim to be Christian although the percentage is dropping. We have free elections and we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, free enterprise and free trade. We even have buy one, get one free of almost anything if you watch the coupons. So what is the problem?
The second reading from Acts today proclaims that ‘every nation that fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God.’ When the Bible talks about ‘fear of God’ or ‘fear of the Lord’, it means awe of the Lord…as if God is really great…even greater than us…even us really smart people. It goes on to say that God, “proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. If that’s the case, the operative question would be, ‘are we really following Jesus Christ and are we really in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ?’ Acts today goes on to say that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. Likewise were we at our baptism and with the gifts that came with Confirmation.
We are living in a society where many, many people feel strongly that they are treated unfairly. So strongly that they demonstrate in the streets and most recently, sometimes riot and even attack the capitol when it’s full of our representative leaders. We have heard recently that half the children in our country of peace and prosperity are food insecure. Half the people have no savings. What could be their vision of life when they are one rent or mortgage check away from a severe crises? From homelessness.
Isaiah today tells us that the one sent and anointed by the Spirit shall bring forth justice to the nations…. Without shouting or crying out, without even having His voice heard in the street! Without rioting, or name-calling or stealing or vandalism or shooting or even law suits….
All this can be done by virtue of Him being anointed by the Spirit of God? God had called forth the suffering servant in Isaiah today to bring about a victory of justice, a VICTORY of justice OVER OPPRESSION …to be in a covenant with God Himself, and to be a light to all the nations… to ALL the NATIONS. As bad as our problems might be, we are much better off than most of the nations on earth. Even in the trauma, tragedy, and chaos of last Wednesday, the capitol city was able to pull itself together enough to continue on with the confirmation of President elect Biden that same evening. A rather impressive feat in itself. Perhaps proof that God is still among us.
Of course God is still with us. Again, we too have been anointed by the Spirit, the HOLY Spirit. In our Catholic understanding of the Holy Spirit, who comes in a most special way through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we believe that these are holy events that empower us. Remember Jesus was anointed with the Spirit and with POWER.
With what type of power is Jesus anointed? Are WE anointed? We heard earlier that victory over oppression and inequality does not come shouting or crying out or by making our voices heard in the street. The Lord’s power is so gentle that even a bruised reed would not be broken nor windows broken or doors be broken down. Certainly no one will need to be harmed by guns and explosives. Not even a smoldering wick will be quenched. What could God be talking about and what does it have to do with us?
When we were anointed at Confirmation we received the gifts of WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, COUNSEL, FORTITUDE, KNOWLEDGE, PIETY, and FEAR (AWE) OF THE LORD. These gifts give us the capacity to see into the complexity of human behavior with the eyes of our hearts. We have the capacity to look at the inequities in any society and understand why all people, made in the image and likeness of God, act the way that they do. The oppressors and the oppressed. The violent and the passive. All of us. Same God. Save infinite love.
The victory over oppression and inequality and fear and violence will be manifest when enough of us actually cultivate the gifts of the Holy Spirit. GOD’S Wisdom and Understanding and Knowledge actually foster genuine empathy. Awe of the Lord reminds us that we are not smart enough to fix the problems in the Kingdom of Satan. Only God is smart enough.
The value of hard times is that it often brings us to a point where we actually, finally, admit that we need God and we are willing to learn and pray and eventually BE HIS PRESENCE in the world. God is calling us to use our many freedoms to bring about the victory of justice over oppression of all types. God has done this throughout human history.
In today’s bulletin I’ve listed a couple of the major themes of Catholic Social Teaching. This is the non-shouting voice we need in the public square. It pairs well with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
We can better appreciate the suffering servant and the Messiah when we have a more clear understanding of the biblical history in which they lived. See the listing in Fr. Rick’s Pastoral Messages on our website for Fr. Mike Schmitz’ bible study. He will actually read the whole Bible to you in one year and offer many guided messages along the way.
And join us at daily Mass when you can….