Baptism Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Gospel John the Baptist Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Favoured and Beloved

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Today Christmastide comes to an end with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord. It’s a feast full of the promise of new life. It takes us back to our beginning, recalling creation when God’s spirit, hovering over the waters, called new life out of the the swirling chaos:

“As soon as Jesus was baptised he came up from the water, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice spoke from heaven, ‘this is my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on him.’”

It doesn’t take more than a quick glance at the news to recognise that we are living in chaotic times. That is stressful and unsettling, so this reminder that it was out of the chaos that God called us into being is consoling and encouraging.

It also calls to mind another, more personal beginning. Through our baptism in Christ each of us has been called to become a new creation, to blossom into new life in Christ. Through the gift of this baptism we have become favoured and beloved daughters and sons of God. This certainty can give us the courage and hope living away that allow our baptismal promises to shape our lives and our interactions with one another.

As we start a new year it’s worthwhile to take some time to reflect on these beginnings founded on love and hope. Time reflecting on our baptismal promises and how they might shape our life seems to me to be time well spent as we make our way through these challenging times.

As we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord how might your baptismal promises shape your daily life?

Baptism Benedictine Spirituality Gospel Scripture Uncategorized

Kingship and service

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The feast of Christ the King can be challenging. We know that the kingdom Jesus promises is based on a different value system to our human institutions. Yet this feast can bring to mind those human institutions, secular and religious, that have both used and abused power. In our times, when institutions and authorities are often viewed with suspicion, it carries particular challenges. This makes it an uncomfortable celebration and we can be tempted to walk away from it or underplay it.

I find that the parts of our Christian heritage that are most uncomfortable are the ones that need the most attention. If I can face the discomfort, and look beyond the surface they often yield a rich and unexpected harvest. Today I’ve gone back to the Baptismal call that anoints each of us as priest, prophet and king, called to unite with Christ in making his kingdom a reality:

“God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

This puts the whole notion of kingship into a new context, pointing to me back to the example of Jesus in the gospels. It is a kingship based on service, love, compassion and kindness. There is no arrogance or judgement in it. This is a kingship that we can all share in by serving others with love and compassion wherever we can.

As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King where are you being invited to live out your baptismal call today?

Baptism Benedictine Spirituality Christmastide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

The call of the Spirit

Photo by mehrdad ghadiri on Unsplash

Today we’re celebrating the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the feast that brings the Christmas season to an end. As it celebrates the first public appearance of Jesus it refocuses our attention in a new way. The humility and openness of John the Baptist turns our attention towards Jesus:

“Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals.”

His action takes an already growing sense of expectancy in the crowd and points it towards its source and hope. He shows us the one we are to follow, to imitate, to grow into. Reflecting on the Luke’s account Sr Verna Holyhead writes:

“It is Jesus’ prayer that tears open the heavens for the descent of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of his true identity that acclaims him as the Beloved Son on whom God’s favour rests. It is the same for us…At prayer we struggle to hear what God is calling us to be, to know who we are in our deepest truth, at the still point where the Spirit has descended into our depths and anointed us for mission.”

Her words suggest that our following of Christ begins with prayer, with the listening “with the ear of the heart” that St Benedict calls us to. It is in prayer that we discover who we truly are and can respond to the life changing call of the Spirit.

What enables you to open the ear of your heart to the God who calls you into new life?