Will we faithfully follow Jesus

01-09-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is the story of the Baptism of the Lord which is to inform us that the ministry of Jesus has begun. Each Gospel writer has a slightly different version in emphasis and detail because each Gospel writer wants to emphasize different religious ideas about Jesus as He begins His public ministry. In many ways, baptism is also the beginning of our own ministry. Although our baptism usually takes place at the font in church, baptism, in fact, does not end there in church but begins there. When we are washed with "the waters of life", we now stand in a special way in God's grace and favor. We now have the special presence of the Holy Spirit which for Christians is a powerful life force.

We realize when we read the account of John and his baptizing that the people who approached John for baptism were all set to accept his baptism. They desired this special preparation as they actively awaited a new leader, king, and liberator. Note that John, without hesitation, told them that he was not the one they were looking for, that a mightier one than he would be coming soon with a baptism of Spirit and fire. This reference to fire is to invoke in the people's minds their past covenants and purifications during which objects were cleansed by being passed through fire. It is also to remind them that God's presence in times past was frequently accompanied by a sacred fire. John is intent that those who hear him recognize that baptism with fire means not only a complete purification, but also the presence of God (the Holy Spirit) in all those who are purified.

As we continue the passage, we hear how the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus, designating him the long-awaited Messiah. It is clear that many of the people surrounding John at that time did not recognize that Jesus was more than a human. They heard, but did not understand.

This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of the Christmas Season. We now begin the long journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem to His Death and Resurrection. On each Sunday for many weeks, we will walk along with Jesus as He heals the sick and teaches his disciples as we listen to the various Gospel passages. Many people will join and walk along with Jesus to hear His words and to witness His miracles of healing. Sadly, overtime many who follow will leave Jesus because they do not like His message. Some will feel threatened about how they have to now live a different way of life. Some will decide He asks too much of them. Some will grow bored of His healing miracles and walk away. Not everyone who saw Jesus and heard Him followed him. We, also, like those who heard and saw Jesus must also decide if we will continue to follow His Way of Life in our daily life. The Catholic Church offers many, many various ways to assist us to follow Jesus in light of His message. The question for us as we hear the Gospel about the beginning of the journey of Jesus to His Death and Resurrection is: Will we faithfully follow Jesus by walking the Catholic Way of Life this coming church year?