It’s Sunday night and after giving the homily four times at Masses around the Hurunui (this weekend Hanmer Springs, Amberley, Hawarden & Waiau) I think I have worked out exactly how to say what I wanted to share for this feast of the Baptism of the Lord; too late for the parishioners at Masses, but I’m happy to share a thought or two here.
For those who have been baptised, eternal life lived in love with God is not just a future hope. In fact at the moment of baptism, my eternal life begins. This primary sacrament of initiation was worthy of its own sacred space as the numbers desiring baptism grew. Note the San Giovanni Baptistry of the Duomo in Florence pictured.
All my problems arise when I continue to live as one who is searching for Christ, instead of living as one who has already been found by Christ. This may seem a bit pedantic, but it really does makes all the difference. Take for example the person who is desperately searching for love. Such a person can be exhausting to watch and tiring to listen to. This situation is even worse and at times unbearable for the person themselves! However when this person encounters love, every aspect of their life is transformed. They are now relaxed and deeply joyful.
The one who is seeking a future experience of love is often exhausted by the search. Life is stressful. For the one who has been found by love, nothing is a problem and life is abundant.
The one who has been baptised has already been encountered by Christ. Living every moment in this confident knowledge, makes all the difference.
It’s a bit like the Magi of last week’s feast. As they journeyed from their home land in search of Christ they were seekers. They were travellers prepared to endure great inconvenience in their search for a more abundant life. They ask for directions from those they meet on the path: “where can we find the infant king of the Jews…” Their familiarity with the night sky leads them to follow the direction of a star. Then they find the one whom they have sought. They recognise in this helpless baby the Christ whom they have sought.
Something quite extraordinary happens in this encounter. These wise men are transformed. Until this moment they were searchers. Now they are the ones who have found (more correctly been found by) Christ. They are no longer men who seek, they are men who have found and who from this moment live knowing that the event they were created for is no longer a future hope: the life they seek is offered to them as a present reality.
It is helpful to note the difference in reaction to news of the birth of Christ. Herod, who was not a searcher, reacts with fear to the news (Matthew 2:3 – note the difference in translations: Herod was “disturbed”, “troubled”, “alarmed”, “agitated”, “frightened”, ) whereas when the wise men found the child they were simply “overwhelmed with joy”. (Matthew 2:10 – “overwhelmed”, “filled with joy”, “rejoiced exceedingly”…)
Pope Francis & don Luigi Giussani announce this powerfully in the text of the Christmas poster:
“For me, faith was born of an encounter with Jesus. It was a personal encounter that touched my heart and gave new direction and meaning to my life. It is not something external or imposed, but rather that which comes from within and is self-evident. Jesus, in fact, impacts us, shocks us, and renews us.” (Pope Francis)
“It is an Other who takes initiative in our life, thus it is an Other who saves our life, leads it to the knowledge of truth, leads it to affection for what is true, leads it to love for reality. If you accept this announcement as a working hypothesis, then you return to breathing freely, everything becomes simpler, you say bread is bread and wine is wine, life is life and death is death, a friend is a friend, you become happier, and everything becomes even more of a reason for wonder. The more you seek to live this, the more you understand the disproportion and walk humbly, because this Other who intervenes catches me in every moment, catches me again and again, re-launches me, and will complete the work He began: He enables us reach our destiny. ” (Luigi Giussani)