Baptism of the Lord

Not what I want but what God wants

Yesterday, we went to the “centre ville” of Kinshasa to buy provisions for the week. Inside one of the commercial centers, I overheard a kid asking his peers: “Quelle ambition avez-vous?” Meaning, what is your ambition? (I said to myself, wow, these kids are great, their French is better than mine!) So I walked slowly to eavesdrop over their conversation to check how is my French. One boy said, “Me, I want to be a doctor.” “I like to be a teacher, like my Father.” Said the other boy, “how about you?” he demanded back: “Oh, me… become like Barack Obama!”

Once in our life, on our younger days we have dreamed of becoming someone we like to be… a doctor, a pilot, a teacher or a JFK perhaps… You might ask: “Was it your constant dream since then P. Arnold to be a priest, a missionary for Afrika?” I do not want to disappoint you but my answer is no, it was not. I was rather dreaming of becoming a soldier then!

Ask me: “What happened, why did you not pursue it?” The answer is in front of you! Look, since second year HS I stopped growing up! How would I be admitted in the military school. (hehehehe..) But, please do not make a follow up question about the school where I want to go… WESTPOINT!

So I said to myself, yes we dream of becoming someone we’d like to be but we become other than our dreams. For oftentimes, something happens that directs us to be somewhere and somebody else!

I believe Jesus like many of us have also dreamed “for he was like us in all things except sin.” As a growing up boy in Nazareth, Jesus might have dreamed of becoming a master carpenter like his Father Joseph. But along the way something happened that changed all this. What would that be?

Bible scholars explained that like many pious Jews, Jesus was attracted and becomes convinced of John’s preaching, so he followed and sought the baptism of John. And it was during this that a life-turning event took place—the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Jesus and a voice from heaven says, “You are my beloved Son. With you I am well pleased.” From this time on, everything no longer remains the same for Jesus. He went to spend 40 days and 40 nights fasting and praying in the desert to clarify more the meaning of these. He gathered 12 close friends and given up his life on the cross. With these combined it become clear to us that his baptism inaugurates the mission of Jesus given by the Father.

We too have received our own baptism. I believe it meant the same for us as in Jesus. It is also our event of inauguration into God’s given mission. Not so much about spending 40 days and nights in the desert, not so much about gathering 12 close friends and of being crucified but of becoming what God wants us to be instead of what we want to be. All because what happened in Jesus’ baptism is repeated in the very baptism we received from the Church through its ministers. Such that by our baptism the heavens opened, welcoming us into the communion of the living and the saints. This is the Spirit of God’s saving grace dawning upon us. Thus, through our baptism, we are not merely children of our parents but we become Children of God. In theology we called this, Divine Adoption. Simply said, God owns me as his son or daughter!

All that we say about respect, love, forgiveness, justice, and the dignity of the human person is based on this deep and ever beautiful reality that we or I am God’s son or daughter in baptism. This is what God wants us or me to be: to live in love, show respect, grant forgiveness, uphold justice and dignity of the human person. Is this also what we want to be? But when one destroys the good name of another, or ignores his wife/husband and children, or takes advantage of another, this is very far from doing what God wants. To end our reflection today, let me share with you this story.

There was a couple who went to shop in a beautiful antique store. Seeing an exceptional tea-cup, they asked “May we see that?” As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the tea-cup spoke, “I have not always been a tea-cup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me and I yelled out, “Don’t do that. Let me alone,” but he only smiled, and gently said; “Not yet!” Then, Wham! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick!’

But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’ He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape and then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. “Help! Get me out of here!” “When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. ‘Oh, please; Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’ Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. It was twice as hot and I thought I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I was convinced I would never make it. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and wondered ‘What’s he going to do to me next?’ An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself, you’re beautiful.’

Becoming what God’s wants us to be is easier said than done. It is a constant struggle with oneself. I remember Saint Paul saying, “why is it that I do what I do not want to do and not do what I am supposed to?” I believe this struggle is meant to bring us to something beautiful as the tea-cup underwent under the hands of the Master Potter. Becoming what God wants us to be is dying to oneself, but it’s worth it!

So in this mass, let us pray as Jesus taught us, “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

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