My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The Scripture we hear proclaimed on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord announces our mandate. The words speak to us of servanthood in the context of Jesus’ baptism. He, the one who is baptized, is called beloved because he is the model servant. There is no question about our calling; there is no denial of the covenant for which Jesus came to fulfill. We are reminded that we are formed by God and we are his covenant — the bond of love for all the people.
How do we satisfy this mandate? Isaiah tells us we are a light for the nations. We are called to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. What does this mean in our world today?
Who are the blind among us? I dare say that there is blindness in all of us. Our blindness is not a lack of ability to see the things around us. Rather, our blindness is a lack of faith in God. We get caught up in the glory of the secular world and our desire for God weakens. When that happens, his kingdom cannot come. Our first ability to open the eyes of the blind is to open our own eyes. As this Christmas season comes to a close, we remember our awe and wonder at the birth of our Savior — and we go in haste to tell others about what we have seen and heard — to tell the Good News to each other. Our telling cannot be words alone. Jesus asks us to live the Good News. And, this is not relegated to a few hours a day, or for the season of Christmas. This baptismal covenant is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year.
During January, we are profoundly aware of the gift of life, as Jesus comes to dwell among us. Those of you who travel to Washington to March for Life are examples of living out this covenant because as you march, you are also sharing the good news of the gospel of life. You who are unable to travel may choose to pray the rosary publicly or participate in perpetual adoration or pray with your family in the privacy of your home. In all these things, you share the good news.
Bringing prisoners out of confinement may seem like foreign words to some of us. Yet, we do this every day as we concentrate on eliminating human trafficking or welcoming refugees who seek asylum from persecution in their own countries or offering a blanket and food to someone who is a prisoner of difficult circumstances. Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s behavioral health services offers peace to the individuals who participate. The nursing ministry out of St. Ann Parish in DeBary is another example of an opportunity to bring about freedom within the heart of the people who participate.
We are called to carry from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a pastoral statement against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts. “Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love” (Mt 22:39). All of us are in need of personal, ongoing conversion. Our churches and our civic and social institutions are in need of ongoing reform. We must be the ones to carry each other out of this darkness.
At the end of this Christmas season, I pray that our heart will always be drawn to the stable where the Christ child is born. I pray that we will also be called, “beloved,” by those who know us because we are his servants.