Sunday, January 13, 2013

Grace, Happiness, Gratitude - the Baptism of Jesus

Speaking about grief and loss as it relates to chronic illness, Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, once said "My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance (of what is) and in inverse proportion to my expectations."  Another way of expressing this is to admit that "we would all be much happier if we lowered our expectations."

But is it really possible to accept what is and be satisfied?  Should we not expect more? 
Well, personally, I am not sure if I will ever be content with status quo but I am sure that I can be a lot more grateful.
I should be more grateful because I have been baptized, and in baptism a Christian has a lot.  Like Christ, who humbled himself to be baptized before us, we through water and grace posses the very life-giving spirit of God. 

What God gives is neither entitled nor is it earned -what God gives is pure grace.   What God gives is the ability to live the beatitudal virtues of Christ himself:  to build and strengthen relationships and to bring forward a kingdom of such things as mercy, patience, charity and kindness.  Baptism is the grace to be prophetic, which is to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Basilian Father and World Youth Day legend Tom Rosica calls baptism the “call to a prophetic career”.    A means to make the gospel our way of life, Baptism, says Rosica, is an invitation “to get our hands and feet dirty” so to speak.   The sacrament of baptism, he says, “fills human beings with boldness, confidence, and enthusiasm, reminding them that the Gospel must be proclaimed with gratitude for its proven beauty”.   And I would add its revealed beauty. 

Yes, the Gospel is indeed beautiful because Christ lived it. 

G.K. Chesterton, as you may know, said "it is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting it is that Christianity has never been tried”.   And perhaps, in a sense, he was right – there are no perfect disciples but we know that Jesus practiced what he preached.  

Who among us gives God the gratitude God deserves? 

Whether we are Christian or not, I think we tend to think of ourselves as self-made, as though everything I have I have because I have earned.   Such is a lie we tell ourselves. 

Because in baptism we know that such is not true.   Baptism affirms that I am neither self-made nor am I alone.  In baptism we are reminded that God not only formed humanity in God’s very own image, God confirmed that we are good, that God brought us together and graced a Christian community with every opportunity to love and to give as Christ has loved and has given. 

So yes, baptism is the grace to be prophetic:  to stand out for the truth, the goodness, and the beauty that comes from God alone; the grace to witness to things that come from above, and to give from ourselves especially when it hurts. 

In the spirit of Christ Jesus whose baptism we celebrate today, may we accept the grace of our own baptism.    As one prophetic voice, may this community of baptized be nothing other than grateful for all that it has.  

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