In 2006 NASA launched the New Horizons Spacecraft with the mission to visit Pluto. Last year that mission succeeded and we saw the very first pictures of that far-away planet. Before New Horizons, all we new of Pluto was that it was a fuzzy dot of light on the edge of the solar system. After New Horizons flew past we had amazing pictures of the mountains and ice-fields of this far away place.
In order to get to Pluto in time New Horizons needed to perform a gravity slingshot around the planet Jupiter. In doing this the spacecraft sped up by 9000 miles an hour and was able to make it to Pluto on time.
In the Church year we have the opportunity to perform a Spiritual Slingshot around the two great feasts of the year where we have the chance for an intense spiritual encounter with God - Easter and Christmas.
- At Easter time we encounter the DEPTHS OF GOD'S LOVE in that He is willing to endure suffering and death in order to open up the way for us to have a relationship with God.
- At Christmas we encounter the HUMILITY OF CHRIST - That he would give us himself in the gift of the flesh so that we could encounter him as a person and so be drawn into His love.
These two encounters act like a gravity slingshot for our faith - and have the ability to send us with renewed energy on our way. As a result of these encounters we understand God and ourselves in a much clearer way!
Baptism of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, it is the end of our spiritual encounter with the Humility of Christ and it sends us on our way back out into ordinary time. The challenge for us as Christians is "Are we going to allow this spiritual encounter with Christ to propel us into the New Year?"
Christ is Last
In the Gospel today Christ receives his Baptism from St. John the Baptist. How he receives His Baptism is an important lesson for us. If you notice - Christ is Baptized LAST - after everyone else.
Imagine being there...
Think about it this way - All the people are being baptized in the Jordan - and as each person enters into the river their sins are being washed away by the waters of the river - the waters become filled more and more with the sin of the repentant - while they walk away clean. Can you imagine being a sinner compelled by the preaching of John the Baptist and getting in line behind Christ waiting to be baptized - only to have Christ move you forward in the line?
In order to take our sin to Calvary
Then after all of us have been cleansed by Baptism, Christ steps into the water and is Baptized. It is as if He is entering into ALL of our sins and so accepting them into his humanity - to carry ALL of these sins with him until he reaches the completion of His mission and dies on the cross. That is the profound encounter of today's feast.
What are the effects of the Sacrament Baptism?
For those of us who are Baptized, we benefit from Baptism in three ways:
- ·Baptism washes away our sins - Baptism has a tremendous power over Sin. It does this because it is preparing us to receive the presence of the Holy Trinity. This is why the practice of invoking the grace of our Baptism is particularly effective when combating the temptation to sin.
- Through Baptism the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit come and dwell in our souls. This is another profound thought. Just as the Trinity is revealed for the first time today in Scripture, when we are Baptized God unites Himself to our soul, and so is present with us throughout the rest of our life. This is another profound thought to consider the next time that we are tempted with sin - we bear within our soul the gift of divine life.
- By the presence of the Holy Trinity we experience spiritual adoption by God - we become His sons and daughters. We become those who manifest God's love to the world.
We respond by becoming students of Christ
The first response is that if I am a son or daughter of God then I am called to imitate in my life the life of the Son of God - Jesus. The first step to imitating another is to learn about them. This is what St. Paul says to Timothy in the second reading. "Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, (JESUS) saving all (BY DYING ON THE CROSS) and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly" in this age,
New Years Resolution
In our culture, the New Year is a time for resolutions, for making changes in our lives. The first suggestion of the readings today is that we make a resolution to take advantage of this great and rare encounter with the Humility of Christ - so that we can spend this year becoming better students of Christ.
3 Ways to live our lives - Serious, Just and Devout
In his public ministry Christ taught three ways that we can live our lives
- ·Christ taught us to take life seriously - to understand that our life and our faith is serious - and not something to be passed over lightly
- Christ taught us to live justly - which means according to God's plan. Where in our lives today are we living injustice - are we living in sin - these are areas we are called to change!
- Christ teaches us to live our lives devoutly - with a love that imitates the love of Christ. This year is the year of Mercy, and we care called to witness that mercy to the world
Christ's Students become aware of their mission
As we become more and more like Christ this year, we become aware that like Christ - God is calling us to life with a mission - life with a purpose. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah shows us the goal of our mission.
Isaiah - Those who are Baptized are God's servants
The opening lines of the first reading make it clear that God is addressing this first reading to those of us who have been Baptized. He says "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;" Those who are Baptized are called to be the servants of God - we are the ones who have received God's spirit!
We must be gentle and humble because the world is broken
Those who have received God's spirit have a mission, a purpose which Isaiah shows to us when he says "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,"
We are called to carry out our mission by being men and women of Mercy, Gentleness and Humility!
Missionaries of Mercy
As Baptized Christians we are the people who have been given the purpose of showing God's justice to the world. We do this by living lives that imitate Christ. In Christ we learn that God's justice is founded on His Mercy, and so we are called to be men and women of mercy in the world.
We live in the Coast lands - Pagan Territory
God has sent us into the coast lands to bear this witness. For the Jews at the time of Isaiah, the coast lands are the areas of Israel where the people do not know who God is, and so they need a witness to God's ways.
In our world today the coast land would be the places of this country where there is a need for people to witness to God's love. Colorado is one of those places. According to a 2010 Pew Research survey 1 in 4 Coloradoan's is a person without faith - without and experience of the love of God. It may come as a surprise to use that we live in a place that is so in need of this message - God teaches us that our mission is to be "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."
Mission of the New Evangelization is a mission of action
In 1993 St. Pope John Paul II came to Colorado and gave the Church of Denver the mission of being the heart of the New Evangelization - to bring the message of Christ's love and humility to the world. We are called to live out this mission here in our state - not by words but by actions that show how we choose to live out our lives.
Baptism compels us to be witnesses to Love
This is the gift of Baptism - this is the gift to which we are invited to participate in. The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the feast in which we celebrate the gift of Baptism in our life. Let us take advantage of this Spiritual encounter and allow it to propel us into this year with a deeper desire to share the message of Love with the world in darkness around us.