Baptism of the Lord
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord: Our Mission(s)
The boys jumped into the water. One comes up holding the cross. The people cheer. The girl releases the dove
The scene that took place last Sunday afternoon in Spring Bayou, here in Tarpon Springs, Florida as the Greek Orthodox Church recreated the Baptism of the Lord, the aspect of the Epiphany that we in the Roman Catholic Church celebrate this Sunday. The boy arising from the water with the cross represents Jesus who at his baptism by John the Baptist publically accepted the mission the Father had set for him, a mission that would end with the cross.
Today's feast encourages us to reflect on the main mission God has assigned for each of us as well as the many missions of our lives.
Our main mission in life is to love God with our whole mind, our whole heart and our whole soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Each of us are called to do this in a way that is most in keeping with our spiritual individuality, our unique reflection of God. For some, the main mission is to do this through the sacrament of marriage. Notice that I say the sacrament of marriage. Marriage as a sacrament, celebrated in the Church and lived in the Church, makes Christ real in the love of the husband and wife for each other. When this love is the love of Christ, sacrificial love, the married bring Christ to the world. Their mission in the world, your mission in the world, so many of you, is to love your spouse with the love of Christ. If you are blessed with children, then your mission takes on a new dimension as you raise your children in the love of Christ you professed on your wedding day, and you live every day. This is the spiritual basis of the maxim: if you want to be a good father, a good mother, then love your spouse. Are you the perfect husband, the perfect wife? Of course not, that is not possible. But be aware that God is merciful.
He doesn't just see the times that you are not at your best. He sees the myriad of times that you love him through your spouse and your family.
For some the mission in life is to serve God and His people through the sacrament of holy orders or through the consecration of religious life. The priest, the sister, the brother, do not have jobs or careers. They have lives given to God. That is the ideal. In reality, their humanity often limits their gift of themselves to God, but God is merciful and sees the intentions of their hearts despite their flawed living of these intentions. We trust in the mercy of God to see the times that we listen to him and follow him, not just the times that we miss his call to service.
For some the mission of life is neither marriage nor consecration to the priesthood or religious life, but the life of a single person using as much time and energy as they have to serve the Lord in his people.
Perhaps some are young and have not entered the stage of life where they might marry, perhaps others were married but are now widowed or single. Perhaps some have not been called to the vocation of marriage, but have been called to the vocation of being a committed single. If you have more time than the married, you have to realize that you have a greater opportunity to serve the Lord through others.
All of us have main missions in life. We also have many secondary missions. Many times I come upon a mother or father who tell me about a child or Teen that needs extra attention. "He/she has become my project," the parent says. "I am going to get him/her through this difficult time in life." This is wonderful. You people are really amazing parents. I get to witness this all the time. Sometimes people recognize that they need to use their talents outside of their main mission. A man or woman has great people skills and can help people find solutions to their problems. Another is a natural educator and offers his or her skills in faith formation or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
A third has talent in music and serves the community in the choir. All of these are secondary missions that we all have and which we cannot justify ignoring.
Sometimes, many times, God gives us a mission when we least expect it. Many of you spend significant time every week driving your children places. Let me point out to you that you have a ministry as a chauffeur. For example, you are driving you children home from school, or to a soccer match, and you hear a neighbor's child say that he didn't eat anything since last night. You could ignore that, and ignore God, or you can find a way to get that child some food. None of you here would ignore a hungry child. Perhaps, though, you may not realize that you have been given a grace to serve God by dropping your schedule and taking care of that child.
What is more common in your ministry as chauffeurs is that you hear the children or teens speaking about someone in an uncharitable way. It is easy to make believe that you don't hear them, but perhaps God has put you in that car in that situation to help the young integrate their faith into their daily lives.
We priests have wonderful lives because we are continually called upon to listen to God and care for someone in need. I think we have the greatest lives in the world because we are always called upon to be Christ for others. But then again, I don't know what it is like to be a married man or a physical father. You would be justified in saying that with your spouse and your children, you are continually being called out of yourselves and into service for the Lord.
We often ask ourselves questions whose answer is beautifully obvious. Why was I created? or What is God's plan for me?
His plan is that you and I will make a difference in the world by gifting the world with the unique reflection of his love that only each of us could provide.
You see, you and I are not mere numbers in a vast planet of people, perhaps even in a vast universe of rational creatures. You and I are much more than this, infinitely more than this.
You and I are Christians. We are lovers, Divine Lovers. We love the Divine and the Divine loves us and loves through us. We exist to love, to love God with our whole mind, heart and soul and to love others as God loves them.
There are people in the world who will meet God by meeting you. There are people in the world who will meet God by meeting me. They are people who are searching. They are searching for meaning in life. They are searching for reasons behind their joy and pain, their sadness and fleeting pleasures. They seek lasting happiness. They search for answers and they rely on us, you and I, to help them find these answers.
The Lord was baptized by John the Baptist. He accepted the mission the Father had set for him. We also have been baptized, only with a baptism of the Holy Spirit. We have been called to accept the main mission and the many missions the Lord needs us to fulfill. As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we pray that we might be open, aware, and determined to complete the mission and the missions that God assigned to each of us.