The Fire is Started … Now What?
Baptism of the Lord at Discovery 2015, Lowesville VA.
Jesus was 30 when he began his public ministry. The time before this was not wasted time. It was necessary preparation for the mission he would be sent on by the Father. It would be over in three years. Then he could say “Mission Accomplished!”
JESUS WAS 30! If you don’t know what God’s purpose for you in life is, it’s never too late to figure it out. And all this time is preparation. Some of you will know your path sooner, some later. Some will take a short time to accomplish, some longer. And accomplishing your purpose is not the end. Some of us God rewards with witnessing the results of our work.
But first, we should address one interesting question today. Did Jesus need baptism? Probably not. He set an example for us because it marked a beginning for him, and set the tone for his journey. Similarly, baptism is a marker for us as well. It marks the beginning of our journey.
And as Jesus stepped out of the Jordan river that day, a voice was heard from above, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus had to work on his relationship with his Father leading up to his public ministry. He was a carpenter by trade, learning by Joseph’s side. And he lived under the authority of Mary and Joseph. He knew the Father’s love through the love of his parents. And his love for all people comes from the assurance of his Father’s love—it knows no end.
John the Baptist sums up in a short sentence Jesus’ purpose and mission. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It is because of Jesus that we receive the Holy Spirit, whom God gladly bestows on those who ask. As a priest, I know I have called on God in the name of the church through Jesus Christ for the gift of the Holy Spirit many times. I will jokingly say all I learned in seminary was to say big words and wave my hands over things. And then I was set apart and sent to do just that. But joking aside, there is more to what I do than say big words and wave my hands over things. It has taken me many years to fully appreciate how amazing and awesome a privilege and responsibility I have been given.
You think you know what it means to be an unworthy instrument in God’s hands? I look at my own hands and I am blown away. Through these hands, children and adults become disciples of Jesus Christ and members of his body, are set on their journey to heaven, and are helped to recognize their dignity as chosen vessels of God’s grace.
Through these hands, people experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, are healed of their brokenness, are brought to wholeness, and come to know God’s peace.
Through these hands, God’s power is called down upon ordinary bread and wine making Jesus present in mystery and reality. And the hungers of the spirit are fed in the proclamation of God’s word and at the table of the Eucharist.
Through these hands, God’s love is celebrated in marriage and family with blessing and friendship. I don’t get to celebrate marriage and family first-hand, but I recall that passage in the gospel where Jesus says, “If you give up father and mother, children and family … you will receive so much more in this life …” I am blessed to rejoice in the love of other people’s families and of the family of God’s people.
Through these hands, people who are suffering and ill are accompanied to know physical and spiritual healing, to trust in God’s goodness, and to journey home to God through death into eternal life.
I love what I do because I see God’s power at work in various amazing ways, and sometimes I’m there when it happens. I didn’t go through all that to brag. Rather, I wanted to point out how you all, too, have been called and chosen, baptized and anointed, forgiven and transformed, empowered and sent. You have access to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for your own salvation, for your neighbor’s and for the whole world. How awesome is that?
You are a beloved child of the Eternal God and Father. You can call on God as Jesus calls on God—Abba, Papa, Dad. You participate in God’s power to create and give life. You have wonderful talents and gifts. You have potential to do great things and renew the world with new technology, creativity, enthusiasm, and passion. And one day, some of you will be called to participate in the wonderful and awesome mystery of marriage and family to bring new life into the world, to nurture that life to maturity, and to enhance the life of society and the church. And some among you will be called to ministry in the life of God’s people, as lay ministers, as religious women and men, as deacons and priests, to touch other people’s lives and help them to touch God.
You are a sister or brother of the Eternal and Saving Word of God, and through Jesus, you are a sister or brother to all humanity and all creation. You are a companion to others on their journey, to strengthen and support them, to be strengthened and supported by them. You know what it means to be redeemed. You can help others experience redemption. You have heard God’s Word, and have been transformed by God’s Word. You are called, empowered, and sent to proclaim God’s Word (with your life and with your words) and help them experience transformation. Remember that Jesus alone is our savior. He has walked with us, and we with him. We have known him. We need to draw others to him, now that we know the way.
You are a living, breathing vessel of the Eternal Spirit of God. You carry within you God’s strength, God’s power, God’s light, God’s passion, God’s life, God’s joy, God’s glory, God’s majesty, God’s awesomeness! You are not supposed to blend in and live in mediocrity. You are a most visible sign and expression of the invisible God in a most unbelieving world hungry for God. And hopefully, the same can be said of us as the Father said of Jesus, “You are my beloved daughter, my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Such an awesome blessing! Such an awesome responsibility! And don’t you forget it! God has lit a fire in your soul. It needs to get blazing in a hurry!
Rolo B Castillo © 2015