Jesus is coming up the road to Rome. People ranging from shepherd boys, street vendors - to one of the newly made Vatican cardinals - see him approaching, each one is gasping at the news that “Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming!” each one running to the next person in authority. When a cardinal, with all of the other people behind him, gets to the pope, the pope gasps at the news and hurriedly grabs a piece of paper. All of those assembled look at each other, with everyone eventually egging the cardinal on to say something. When the cardinal says, “Your Holiness, did you hear? Jesus is coming,” the pope says, “Yes! Look busy!”
Yes – it’s a joke – but not really. We are called to be busy – to be busy on mission.
Last week’s Gospel version by Matthew and this week’s version by John both concern an event, the Baptism of Our Lord. Last week we see Jesus allowing himself to be baptized by John “fulfilling all righteousness.” Upon Jesus is the Spirit of God descending like a dove – we hear the voice from heaven say “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Trinity is present at the Jordon. Baptism has changed – from symbolic ceremonial washings to now being born of water AND the Spirit. Baptism is now a sacrament - and Jesus, by allowing Himself to be baptized, teaches us that “we are all to be baptized.” The Church teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism cleanses us of original sin, we receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and we become members of Jesus’ Mystical Body. We also become children of the “Light” – called to be “light.”Baptism makes us disciples – who receive a mission.
John Paul II said “Because of the one dignity flowing from Baptism,” every baptized person “shares a responsibility for the Church’s mission.”
To understand this “call” to mission, we first have to know “who” is doing the calling – and that is the focus of today’s Gospel reading. As John sees Jesus coming toward him, he says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist “points to Christ.” He has identified for us the One who “calls.” He is the ONE who chose to lay down His life as a sacrifice for you and me. He is Jesus the Christ. He is the fullness of gentleness, of sacrifice, and of triumph. If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, how can we not heed his call?
Our first reading from the Book of Isaiah presents us with an address to the Gentile nations. “I will make you a light to the nations- that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here is God expressing His love for Israel, indicating that through that nation, He the Lord will be glorified and praised. Through Israel, the grace of God would shine forth worldwide.
Brothers and sisters, in baptism God calls us out of darkness into his marvelous light. We are called reflect that “light.”– to be God’s instruments here on earth – to be what Mother Teresa called “Love in Action”, each one of us, using our God given gifts – pointing towards Our Lord. As Israel was the conduit for the passing on of God’s grace, we too are conduits – to pass on God’s love - be the face of Christ wherever we may be - in our homes, in our workplace, in the soup kitchens, the homeless shelters. Jesus expresses his love to his children - through his children. We are called to mission - to be His “light” in the world.
A beautiful example of this “Light” is the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this Monday. Baptized as a child in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia, Dr. King spent his “short” lifetime bringing “Light” into the darkness of racial segregation and discrimination. In 1963, incarcerated in the Birmingham jail, he wrote “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that - hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Dr. King was a man whose life was formed by the Gospel – who became that light – who, like Jesus – preached gentleness – non-violence – who sacrificed his life – and triumphed over darkness.
Now we may say, “Me? Holy? How am I going to achieve that? To achieve - or even attempt holiness in this modern world can seem futile… but we are a people of faith…we know nothing is impossible with God.. So, there is a way. First and foremost, we “pray” we ask Our Lord to make us holy – to be like Mary, submissive to the Will of God, as the Psalmist says “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
We use our strengths and talents as a gift from Christ. We follow Christ and become like him, seeking the Father's will in all things, the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. We use our personal gifts and fulfill our duties in the spirit of faith working through love. We receive all things with faith from the hand of the heavenly Father.
At our baptism, each one of us is “called” to play a unique role in carrying out God’s divine plan – called to be on a “mission”, being His “ light ” to the nations.
Father in Heaven, ever-living source of all that is good, keep us faithful in serving You.
Help us to drink of Christ's Truth, and to fill our hearts with His Love, so that we may serve You by reflecting Your “light”, united in faith and love, and reach eternal life.
In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, You give us the joy of sharing Your Life, Keep us in Your presence, Let us never be separated from You, and help us to do Your Will.