Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Baptism of Jesus B, January 11, 2015 by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Today, as we remember the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth,
we’re reminded of our own baptism.
Whether we were baptized just a couple of years ago
or way back when we were babies,
our baptism means something to us,
and the meaning has changed and deepened over time.
When I was baptized on March 19, 1944,
my parents thought they were keeping me out of hell;
they believed that the water poured over me,
along with those perfectly articulated Latin words—
Ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti—
would keep God from sending me to limbo,
where unbaptized babies went,
or would allow me into purgatory,
the temporary home where my sins could be burned off. .
Then came the Second Vatican Council, with Lumen Gentium,
the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church,
where we learned that baptism does something far greater
than save us from eternal damnation:
it marks us as the Body of Christ, part of the People of God,
sharing the role of Christ as priest, prophet, and king,
and calling us to live our lives in mission to the world.
Because of Vatican II, we have come to understand
that our sacramental rituals, including baptism,
do not make something happen.
They celebrate something that has already happened.
We are born to the people of God, called from all eternity.
Our baptism celebrates that call in the midst of community.
But baptism doesn’t necessarily make us Christians.
For that to happen, we have to commit ourselves
and take action on our commitment.
We who are cradle Catholics started out
with a minimal meaning to our baptism.
Our parents and godparents spoke for us
and we became members of the church.
We had to grow in understanding
and make the commitment as adults
to live the Way of Jesus of Nazareth
and drink of the living water
and share the bread of loving our neighbors.
We had to grow in wisdom and age and grace
and learn to answer God’s call to holiness
for our baptism to take on the increasingly important meaning
it now has for us.
That’s what happened to Jesus in the Jordan.
His parents presented him in the temple
when he was eight days old;
he was circumcised, marking him as Jewish.
He grew in wisdom and age and grace.
He spent time with the scriptures and in prayer.
He was a faithful Jew.
He understood his relationship to God
and his commitment to a life radically dedicated to service,
called to be for others.
He steps forward to be baptized by John—
one short step into the river, a life of total dedication.
His mission begins.
Last summer we drew worldwide attention here in Toledo—
not because we placed a strong second
in the Compassionate Community games,
not because we’re the home of First Solar
and its leading edge work on natural energy,
not because our Art Museum
acquired Giordano’s Liberation of St. Peter.
No: we drew worldwide attention because our water was poison.
We’re not the only people with water problems.
According to the National Geographic,
“If Jesus were to plunge into the Jordan River today,
he might well injure himself.
The great biblical waterway
is now little more than a shallow, unimposing trickle of sludge,
a murky body of water
that is in danger of withering into nothingness.”
Drought is everywhere; the whole word is suffering a water crisis:
southern California; Queensland, Australia; Guatemala;
the Sindh province of Pakistan; large regions in China.
Pressured by starvation and living in squalor,
people are rising up to kill each other
over water and land and food and space to live.
Fresh water—like the other resources of our planet—is finite,
but we in the developed world
continue to overuse it and waste it,
doing harm first and most of all
to those who are poor and who live in developing countries.
Our overconsumption, our waste, is killing people around the world.
We who are followers of the Way of Jesus of Nazareth,
we who are called to roles of priest, prophet, and king
by virtue of our baptism,
believe we are responsible
for our neighbors in Pakistan and Guatemala…
and here in northwest Ohio.
We see the degradation of our planet as a profound moral issue,
the greatest right-to-life issue of our time.
Some people say it’s too big a problem;
there’s nothing one person can do.
Good thing Jesus didn’t say that.
So we follow his example: we are taking action.
As a community we’re getting organized to plant tree seedlings—
lots of them, 282,313—over the next five years.
We’re speaking out against developments
that will harm the health of the Maumee Valley watershed,
like building a parking garage along the river
or tearing out acres of 80-year-old trees
to expand a supermarket.
We support TUSA’s proposed lead paint abatement legislation.
And in our homes we work to simplify our lifestyle
so that we no longer use
more than our share of the world’s resources.
We’re changing our habits, and it’s not easy.
But it’s the right thing to do.
For us, it’s living our baptismal commitment.
It’s walking the Way of Jesus.
It’s loving our neighbor.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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