Psalm 130: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
One of the joys of ordained ministry is when presiding over the Rite of Baptism. Everyone enters the church building to celebrate new beginnings in a family’s life. The Liturgy of the Word also features in this rite. The rubrics of the rite asks that the minister of baptism offers some explanation of the Word and also of the purpose and understanding of what the mystery of baptism is all about. In order for people to feel a little comfortable with what is happening, I usually start my reflection by stating that we come together for two reasons, that is; to welcome the child into the Christian community, but also to remove the stain of original sin. Humorously, I will ask the congregation, “What is original sin? Who was tempted?” More often than not, one of the gentleman in the gathering will say, “It was Eve’s fault because she gave Adam the apple!” My retort, “Really… there’s no apple in that story! And guys my Irish mother and five sisters told me that is always the guy’s fault!” In reality, when God created the world, man and woman were created equally in the image and likeness of God. The story of the Garden of Eden reminds us that God created harmony and order. God made it clear with Adam how he was to live in this garden of paradise. God orders Adam, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Once both Eve and Adam question God’s will and fall to the temptation of eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they ultimately distance themselves from God and His will. The result? They are ashamed of the nakedness. The original sin is that Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God. This tendency is present in every human being. The Rite of Baptism prays, “We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.” Why would I write about this? Today’s first reading tells us about the consequences of going against the will of God. Once we sin, our world view of ourselves and others becomes skewed. We distance ourselves from God when we knowingly are tempted and go against what God intends for us. Many of us think that we know better than God at times.
In St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he reminds the early Christian community that once they allow the risen Jesus into their lives and live in the spirit of faith, they will have grace in abundance. Once they follow God’s will, they will have a lot to be thankful for. He reminds the early disciples the glory of God will overflow when they enter into their eternal dwelling place. Paul’s words to the early Christians is the same encouragement given to us as we journey through time and make our pilgrimage to our journey’s end. All of us are reminded that if we follow God’s will in our lives, then we will experience grace beyond grace, and will also face an eternal reward.
How do we do this? We simply follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Incarnate Word. So, as we read and listen to the Gospel of Mark today, and hear that Jesus’ relatives had thought he had gone out of his mind, we have to ask ourselves, why? The answer is that he was doing his Father’s will. He was journeying down the road less travelled. Jesus was doing something extraordinary in the realities of life around him. He was bringing healing and peace, where both were lacking in the lives of those possessed. The consequences? His own relatives were not open to the gift of God before them and they accuse him of being possessed himself. Jesus response is to open the hearts to what was being revealed to them. He also warns them not to gnaw away at blaspheme (swear or cuss), against the power of the Spirit within him. Once he is informed that his mother and brothers (relatives) have arrived, he takes this as a teaching moment for his disciples, and now to us. “Who are my mother and my brothers…For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” He is clearly telling us that if we follow the will of God, we belong household of God, not only now, but through all eternity.
Every person is made in the image and likeness of God. When we are baptized, we receive the dignity of being name Christian and an intentional disciple of Jesus. We are given a call to be a light for the world. It is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to uphold the dignity and rights of all people, regardless of the color of skin, language, or way of life. Whenever we see people being treated with disrespect, it our responsibility to take charge of our baptismal calling to speak with a prophetic voice in order that the Spirit of God be respected in our brothers and sisters. Discrimination, racism, bigotry, inequality, and intolerance have no place within a Christian community. It is the duty of all of us to make sure that these things have no place in our hearts or our society. Sometimes this requires of us choosing to take the road less traveled in order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The same Jesus whose relatives thought he was out of his mind for doing what he did! When we do this, we will receive grace in abundance.
Heavenly Father, we are your sons and daughters. Together, may all who live in the world learn to live as a family. It is your Son’s greatest prayer that all may be one. May we always seek to do your will, not ours. May our lives become a reflection of the gospel. Amen.
In what way does the gospel challenge you today? How do you discern God’s will? Do you recognize sinful attitudes when people disrespect others? Do you try to correct such attitudes? Have you allowed others to be transformed by your witness as a Christian?
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost (1874-1963)