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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Jan. 13, 2013

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

January 13, The Baptism of the Lord.

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7

Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10

2) Acts 10:34-38

Gospel: Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

This weekend as we celebrate Jesus' baptism, we remember it as the moment when he embraces his humanity, figuratively getting into the pool with us. We also remember our own baptism when we get into the pool with him to be immersed in his life.

In our Catholic sacramental life, baptism and confirmation are similarly two parts of a whole. Baptism with water initially marks us as belonging to Christ. But, as the baptizer John promises, a baptism of "fire" will become the empowering experience of Jesus in which love, compassion and justice become actions we take through the Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 42 describes a prefigured Christ bearing the Spirit of God in his mission to bring about justice. He will do this not by words or self-promotion, but by acts to end suffering and oppression. He won't give up until the work is accomplished, the reading says.

Anyone who has been involved in social justice ministry knows it is a hard, frustrating grind. Speeches, essays or pledges don't get justice done. Only the Spirit of Christ among people has the power to make it happen.

Some years ago, I interviewed a locally respected activist who had returned to social ministry after temporarily disappearing from the scene. When Ray Higgins was first out of college, he told me, he got into political activism and the social justice movement in a big way, including missions to Central America and participating in the sanctuary movement, Habitat for Humanity and community organizing.

After a decade, he burned out. The work had become an end in itself. "There wasn't much spirituality involved in what I was doing," he admitted.

He spent two years getting back into the pool with Jesus, re-establishing relationships with family, friends and with God. He soon realized that passion for his work had to come through Jesus. When he returned to ministry, he said, "I don't live for my work anymore. It has to live in me."

Then Christ got into the pool with Ray: He was nurtured by the "small miracles" performed by friends and neighborhood leaders sharing the work. "Now I gauge the ministry by asking, 'What do I live for, and who do I love?'"

The "fire" of Christ's life is what strengthens and sustains us for his mission.


When was a time that you wanted to walk away from God's call to ministry? How were you able to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit and how was it empowering?


"A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth." -- Isaiah 42:3-4


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