Isaiah 42:1-4; Acts 10: 34-38; Mt 3:13-17
Baptism of the Lord (1st Sunday in Ordinary Time)
I hope that your Advent/Christmas experience brought you a bit closer this year to the Mystery of Love at the center of it all.
I’ve been doing some reading lately about one change in the Missal that’s coming to us next Advent. Soon the text will say that Jesus died “for many” rather than “for all”.
In light of this pending change, one line in Peter’s speech from Acts caught my eye: “In every nation whoever fears him (God) and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Such a proclamation – placed in the mouth of the first Catholic Pope, no less – suggests that, whatever the wording of the new text might be, the meaning behind it is that God desires a relationship- inaugurated within time and space but ultimately transcending it – with each and every one of us. As a Christian I believe that this relationship is consummated in the risen Christ and as a Roman Catholic I believe that there’s a fuller experience of this relationship within the sacramental life fo the Church than outside of it.
Yet the Vatican II Council taught that while the Mystical Body of Christ, consisting of all those united together with Jesus as their head, “subsists” in the Roman Catholic Church this by no means precludes the possiblity of salvation outside the Church. “Elements of Truth and sanctification” abound.
Probably it’s a good idea to clear up one point in Peter’s proclamation that is often misunderstood. “Fear of the Lord” does not mean it is good to be afraid of God. If one is afraid of God then one has not yet met Jesus. The words which best capture the meaning of this term are “awe” and “wonder”.
We experience fear of the Lord in those moments when we become profoundly aware that we are in the presence of someone or something much greater than ourselves. You’ve had these moments- we all have. The days I saw my daughter and my son being born. The time I saw a student having a really difficult year smile for the first time. Heck, the first time the woman who would later become my wife smiled at me.
One might think that such an experience of absolute granduer would leave a person feeling small. Yet anyone who has had such a moment knows that this is not true. Astoundingly, you feel so much bigger.
So, “all” or “many”? Either way, let our prayer this week be to remember that each and every person we will meet was born to be a child of God.
Jim Philipps (3rdmillenniumpilgirm)