Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9, 2011 – Baptism of the Lord

Is 42:1-4, 6-7 Acts 10:34-38 Mt 3:13-17

Just a little over two weeks ago we celebrated Christmas. I know that I enjoyed looking at the Christmas crèche again and resting in the mystery of God’s amazing humility to come to us with all the limitations of being human: the sickness and death, the inevitable path of growth and understanding, the trials and errors we all make in relationships. And yet, God freely chose to enter into our lives as one of us. That’s amazing!

Today’s feast of Jesus’ baptism brings forward another level of God’s commitment to us. When Jesus approaches John in the Jordan, John is stupefied that Jesus, the holy one of God, would come forward to be baptized in a baptism of repentance. Clearly Jesus had not sinned and had no need for baptism. That is why John told him, “You should baptize me.” And John was right. All of us are sinners. We make poor choices; we harm one another through meanness, dishonesty and disrespect. We know that we need baptism. Jesus had no such history of sin. Yet, he told John to let it be, this would fulfill all righteousness.

Haven’t we all wondered what this could possibly mean? Let’s explore the mystery and see if we can’t see for ourselves what Jesus meant by “fulfilling all righteousness.” I believe that Jesus was saying that the mystery of God’s choice to be like us in every way continued right into his adult life. While Jesus could not sin because sin would deny his divine nature, he could choose to take on our weakness, our struggles and our sins in order to be more fully identified with our human condition. His love for us was dramatically shown by the fact that he did not seek an exception for himself. Rather he accepted the full human condition for himself even without personal sin. He did not stand apart and say, “Follow me because I am the exception. I am the all-powerful God who has no need of repentance.” No, he was willing to take it all on himself out of love for us.

Even with his total acceptance of our condition, Jesus still could be blown away by his baptismal experience. He entered the water of the Jordan and heard God saying, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” You and I may hear these words year after year and think, “Of course! Jesus is the unique Son of God whose perfect response to God drew out God’s praise.” But, I have to wonder if that is what Jesus thought at his baptism. If we understand that Jesus fully embraced our human condition, then he would have had only an inkling of his true identity. His self-knowledge would have to have grown in the same way ours does, year by year. What I mean by this is that each of us grow in self-awareness and self-knowledge over time. Jesus probably would have experienced the same kind of growth.

Growing up in the first century Jewish culture, Jesus would have been aware of Israel as the beloved nation. He would have learned that everyone has to play his part in keeping the covenant with God, but God chose the nation as His inheritance. The sense that you and I have of being individually chosen and loved by God, probably would not have been Jesus’ primary way of relating to God. So, when God proclaimed that Jesus was his beloved son—why that was amazing! It was so astonishing, that Jesus had to go into the desert for forty days to unravel this new revelation in his relationship with God.
I can understand that, can’t you? Even if we have learned that God loves us, knowledge and experience are two different things. When we really grapple with being loved by God, we inevitably throw up road blocks telling ourselves things like, “Of course God loves me. God has to love everything made;” or “God loves everyone, but with all my imperfections God doesn’t love me as much as God loved Jesus.” It takes a long time to really accept and live out of the immeasurable love of God for us. But when we do accept this relationship with God who loves us unconditionally and without limits, our lives are turned upside down. When we experience God’s love, then everything else lessens in importance. We find that we want to love what God loves. We find ourselves seeking ways of being with God and finding ways to please God… much in the same way that human lovers do.

If we consider this amazing revelation of God for Jesus and for us, that we are beloved sons and daughters, then our response has to be one of love. Then we go about doing what Jesus did as our reading from the Acts tells us: Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Love brings out the same impulse in us to do good and heal those who are in pain or any kind of suffering. We know that God is with us and that knowledge alters our relationship with every other creature beloved by God. Now we can look at each other with wonder, knowing deep within that this person in front of us is uniquely loved by God in his or her totality. That changes how we relate. Like the reading that describes Jesus so well in the prophet Isaiah, we adopt the reverent attitude of Jesus toward others that “does not raise up his voice or make it heard in the street.” We will not break the broken reed or pinch out a smoldering wick. No, we behold everyone with God’s love and relate in gentleness, humility and bringing hope to everyone who has not yet heard the good news that we are “beloved of God,” and we please God.

We can even go farther in our esteem of others, embracing all of creation as beloved by God. What if we saw in each ant, each swaying tree, each babbling brook a beloved creation that God loves? How lovingly we would treat creation! We could even identify ourselves more closely with all creatures than we’ve done before, embracing our own creaturehood, knowing every creature as a brother or sister. Jesus identified himself with our lowliness, our sinfulness and our weakness before he heard the message of God’s love. As disciples, we can embrace all of nature and each and every person as our own family, and doing so, we will know that we are beloved by God. This is a river that we can dive into and experience a difference in the world and ourselves.

Key words

Bible, Scripture, Christian, environment, ecology, lectionary, reflection, homily, sermon, Catholic, green, environmentally friendly, sustainability, the common good, the commons

About Me

The Green Nun earned an MA in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley and is currently completing a Masters degree in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana. This blog spot is being done as an integration project for the MA.