Year A, 2nd Sunday, January 15, 2017,
[__01_ ] Life depends on water.
New spiritual life – in the BAPTISM, the sacrament of BAPTISM – also depends on the gift of water.
Life depends on water.
At every place on your lawn, in your garden, or in our solar system or galaxy, we predict the existence and life of blades of grass growing….or any plant or animal … based on the existence and evidence of water.
Whenever we read about NASA or other space exploration projects, we read about the search not only for life but also for water.
If water – [H2O] – were to be discovered, then surely life would follow. If there are living plants or animals, then there must be water.
Water rescues us. Water saves us.
[__02__] John the Baptist (JTB) arrives in a locale, in a place, with very little natural water. Water is scarce in the plain and flat lands of the Middle East and in the area around the Jordan River.
But, John the Baptist is not simply concerned with DEHYDRATION …and REHYDRATION, physically.
JTB is not simply concerned with physical, human or terrestrial sources of water.
JTB is not concerned with whether or not his followers are drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.
However, JTB was concerned that the people of his day were not DRINKING in, were not being immersed in, God’s commandments, God’s ways.
And you I may resemble these very early followers of JTB and of Jesus as well.
That is, we might be able to accept a little sip, a little taste of God’s ways. But, do we want to be immersed? Submerged?
[__03_ ] What we would be one example of this…
For example, you and I might be very willing to follow the Golden Rule, which is a beautiful rule and a way to regulate our lives and to regulate our expectations. What is the Golden Rule ?
We read in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 12: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
So, it is reasonable for me then to love others so that I will be loved, to be kind to others so that they will be kind to me.
However, even with the the Golden Rule, we might only be speed-skating along the surface of the frozen lake of God’s word, rather than being submerged in God’s word.
Jesus invites us, not only to love those who love us but to love those who do not love us in return.
This does not require – or mean – that we will have equally cordial relationships or daily friendship – with everyone. Some people, it is true, we may have to love from a distance…or we may need time to understand them.
When we are baptized, we are also immersed, submerged in water, in God’s will … and this, for example, means praying for those who do not love us, praying for those who persecute us…. (cf. Matthew 5:43-44)
Or…if we are insulted, do not return insult for insult but return a blessing instead. (1 Peter 3:9)
[__04__] We are baptized in water not only so that we can be washed or cleansed on the outside but also so that we can know God’s mercy as nourishment on the inside.
This invites to a deeper, internal understanding
So, for example, we are invited to …
Be compassionate (beneath the surface of our emotions and feelings) when we might feel angry on the surface.
Be a listener (beneath the surface of our mind) …when we might rather use our brain and vocabulary to speak out. Can I listen carefully to what another person is really saying?
And, this invites us to be sympathetic to others, to unite our hearts and minds to others.
For example, St. Paul writes and reminds us “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
But, it might be a real challenge for me to rejoice with someone who is rejoicing, someone who is very happy someone who a success that I also desire. My first reaction – on the surface – might be some envy or jealousy. I might not want to rejoice. Sometimes, being happy – for someone else – is a sacrifice.
Similarly, to weep with those who weep. Am I not called to sympathy to the sorrow of another person? We are called to this, though we know we have our own sorrows and difficulties.