• Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 • Psalm 29 • Acts 10:34-38 • + Matthew 3:13-17 •
[__01__] I’m standing here to be closer to the flowers which are being given away at the end of Mass. I’m giving you the announcement early that these red and white poinsettias are being given away.
This is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the end of the Christmas Season and it’s connected to the manifestation of Jesus that we saw in Epiphany and 3 Kings Gospel last Sunday. Jesus’ power is being demonstrated to the first disciples.
I’d like to reflect on this gospel and the Baptism of the Lord with 3 words:
1st. “meal”, like “eating”
And in this case, the word “mystery” is a BRIDGE (connection) between the 2, between “meal” and “sacrament”.
And, we know about bridges, living in NY and NJ where we’re always wondering about getting over the bridge. And sometimes the bridge itself is a mystery: “Upper level?”/ “Lower level“ / “Is it rush hour?” / “20 minutes, 40 minutes” / “should we take the tunnel?” You know the drill.
[__02__] First, the “MEAL”.
This past week, I went out to eat with some friends, to a restaurant.
Immediately, we were given our menus so that we could order (appetizer, entrée… ), but we did not open the menus and continued talking
The server stopped by our table: “No, we are not ready yet, sorry, we have not looked the menus”
We talked some more.
The server stopped by our table again, “No, we are not ready yet, sorry, we have not looked the menus”.
Finally, at the 3rd time the server tried to raise the curtain and get the show on the road, we actually placed our orders.
[__03__] That’s just an everyday context example, but I suggest it follows along with what we understand as Catholic Christians and in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
“Just as a [real-life] human meal, it is to be human, consists not only of food but also of the spoken words, so too at the Lord’s Supper, along with the heavenly food, the Word of the Lord is presented as the nourishment and illumination for the spirit.” (Benedict XVI, “On the Spirit of Brotherhood”, Dogma & Preaching, p. 208)
[__04__] Jesus is the Word made flesh, the word of God made flesh, who pitches his tent next to and on our table not only at this altar but also in our own homes.
He is – his food is the Body of Christ. We say AMEN to this.
That is the MEAL, the Lord’s Supper of the Eucharist.
[__05__] Now, from MEAL to MYSTERY.
This “Amen ” to the Body of Christ will be said for the first time – at First Holy Communion by 24 of our young people at 1st Holy Communion on Saturday May 16 at 11 am, (Save the date…). Please pray for them. On that day, each will receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is a mystery that the Son of God and Jesus can make himself present in Holy Communion.
It’s also a mystery that Jesus would be baptized.
[__06__] Today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord – and we may naturally ask – why SHOULD and WOULD and how COULD Jesus Himself be baptized?
And, he is going to make First Communion 7 or 8 years later?
Jesus is baptized for a different reason than that of you you and I being baptized. It’s mysterious.
Jesus is submitting himself to the water, submitting himself to this sign, saying that that he is going to live a fully human life, immersed in our existence, even including being baptized. That’s the mystery.
What’s a mystery?
[__07__] Recently, I read an article about this Princeton Professor Gregory Treverton who gives a helpful description of “mystery” vs. “puzzle”.
In a puzzle, there is simply one missing piece and once we find that piece or make a series of rotations on the Rubik’s cube, we have solved the mysteries. I am hoping you know what a Rubik’s cube is – otherwise I have introduced one more puzzle !
Baptism is a mystery and the presence of God Almighty in Jesus is a mystery. It is a mystery how and why Jesus comes to exist in our world.
In contrast, we might say that putting NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong & company on the moon… that’s a scientific and mathematic puzzle which has a solution.
A mystery is not a puzzle. A mystery does not have a missing piece, but something is not revealed, or we have not heard it yet or comprehended it yet.
[__08__] It’s a mystery that Jesus would be baptized, that He would come to earth as a person. It’s sometimes also a mystery to know that we are loved and can be forgiven.
Because forgiveness is also a mystery, that God loves us so much that he would give up his life for us and that God knows the goodness in you or me that we might miss or overlook.
You and I are not puzzles to be solved. However, sometimes, I myself fall into the trap of trying to fix or solve other people or figure out others. But, truly another person – even one whom we know very closely as a child, sibling, spouse, is a mystery I cannot completely comprehend. Mysteries are always … [TO BE CONTINUED….]
[__09_] First, there is the meal. A meal consists of both WORD and NOURISHMENT. And, Holy Communion consists of both God’s word and God’s nourishment.
Then, there is a mystery, that God infinite makes himself present and incarnate – incarnational – in the flesh.
Finally, I’d like to reflect on the nature of a SACRAMENT.
[__10__] What is a SACRAMENT?
A sacrament in the Catholic-catechism definition is a visible sign of an invisible reality.
A wedding ring and wedding vows themselves – are visible signs of an invisible reality.
Holy Communion is a visible sign of an invisible reality, because we cannot see Jesus as His disciples saw Him.
Even forgiveness – sacramentally - is a visible sign of an invisible reality.
On an regular interpersonal level, isn’t it true that if we forgive someone else, we might be recognizing something good that is invisible to the other person or to others.
God forgives us knowing of our goodness inside, even if we do not see this visibly or feel it tangibly.
A sacrament is also not just something we receive or take home, but also something we give and leave behind, that we sacrifice ourselves.
[__11__] This past Tuesday, after dinner at the restaurant, I returned home and remembered that I had left something at the restaurant, it was a folder containing several papers and documents that while not of national-security importance, I nevertheless wanted to retain.
I had brought them to the table to show my friends and learn something about something I did not quite get or understand. I viewed this is a puzzle.
The words and ideas on paper were puzzling and so important that- ironically I had left it behind and had to drive back and pick them up.
In the celebration of Eucharist and Baptism, we not only bring ourselves – we also leave ourselves behind and submit and surrender ourselves.
We return and God returns with us so that we can be raised up, delivered, and brought home.
It’s mysterious. [__fin__]