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Bible Reflections View Comments

What Does It All Mean?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 19, 2014
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The Christmas season ended last Sunday with the Baptism of the Lord. We celebrate the incarnation with a fitting combination of childlike wonder, nostalgia, feasting, and merriment. But the cycle of the church year and the lectionary readings remind us that our faith is more than a commemoration of the birth of a baby in Bethlehem. That baby, like all babies, grew quickly. The adult Jesus who appears in today’s Gospel will begin changing people’s expectations and challenging the status quo. If we profess to follow this man, then we better be ready to expect the unexpected.

The most determined new parents soon discover that babies and toddlers can’t be programmed and that domestic chaos will become a way of life for many years. The most organized Type- A managers learn that they have to be able to handle the unexpected calmly and graciously if they’re going to succeed and help the people around them succeed.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus through the eyes of John the Baptist. According to John the Evangelist, the Baptist is the main witness to the divinity and mission of Jesus. John the Baptist was a man with a single mission. He’s calling people to repent of their sins and prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing them as a sign of their being washed clean of sin. He is, as a business or marketing consultant might say, “on message.”

Then Jesus appears and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And yet twice he reflects wonderingly on the fact that he didn’t know Jesus at first. He says, “I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” His idea of who and what the Messiah would be seems to have been upended by the actual appearance of that Messiah.

Sometimes, even for the most focused among us, it can be hard to know how the things that we do day to day fit into a bigger picture. Like someone working a difficult jigsaw puzzle, we get so caught up in how one or two pieces fit together, or we get frustrated when another piece doesn’t seem to fit at all, that we forget to look once more at what we’re trying to achieve in the long run.

Our Scriptures remind us we don’t always have to be certain of every step and every implication of the things that we do. Life is much less an elaborate battle plan than a quest into the unknown for a cause we believe in with all our hearts and minds. It helps if we can take time out to see the big picture, to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Today we begin once again to explore what discipleship means in our life, how we live our faith in our daily lives. Our faith often needs to grow quickly to meet the unexpected challenges of a secular and sometimes hostile world. And sometimes we might feel blindsided by challenges coming from God’s own movements in our lives.

God’s spirit speaks to us in many ways—through the Scriptures, through other people, even through the evening news. We need to be flexible enough to bend when our ideas don’t fit God’s message, but firm enough to hold to that message in the fickle winds of culture. If we’re alert to the signs around us, we will know how to respond.


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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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