Fr. Bob Writes – January 26, 2020

The call of the disciples in our gospel story this Sunday, and their immediate response, indicates the decisiveness connected with conversion and the totality of the disciples’ adherence to Christ in leaving all behind, even to the point of severing family ties.  The leave-taking is done for positive reasons, the desire of a greater good.

 We are being shown that, when it comes to commitment to Christ, we cannot operate from a “Jesus plus” viewpoint: Jesus plus my family , Jesus plus my spouse, Jesus plus my job, or my house, or my bank account, etc etc.  Jesus must come first, last and always. He must have first place in our hearts and in our affections.  Our desire for a “nice life,” adhering to all the many things or persons who provide “comfort” in our lives, is a great barrier to us experiencing the assurance that comes from total discipleship to Jesus.  It is Jesus who will tell us, a little later on in the gospel of Matthew: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, and everything else will be given to us as well” (Matthew 6:25).  “Everything else” refers to “everything else that we need” not necessarily that we “want.”  Jesus is telling us that we will not lack for support and provision, if we commit ourselves totally to Christ.

What are the “false comforts” in my life that prevent me cleaving totally to Jesus? Who or what do I cling to, to provide me with assurance, instead of trusting totally in Jesus?

Fr. Bob Writes – January 19, 2020

The second reading for today’s Mass ties in closely with the overall theme of election, or calling:  initiated in the servant, fulfilled in Jesus, and continued in every Christian and the church as a whole.  This election results in our forgiveness and is also the source of our mission.  The servant theme is also continued in the church’s ministry.  We are all “called to be saints” as St Paul affirms in his letter to the Corinthian church, in other words to live lives of holiness and godliness, because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, as a result of our baptism. 

We so easily forget that our election carries with it a real sense of responsibility.  Our call signifies a consecration or sacredness before the Lord.  It also means that we have been forgiven.  Yet the Christian life is not restricted to the sanctuary.  The servant in our first reading today was missioned, as was Jesus.  St Paul, in our second reading, identifies himself as an apostle, i.e. one who is sent.  The same is true of us, sent to the neighbourhood, the workplace, the town or the city.  We are called to bring a deep commitment to Christian values to spread the good news of Christ’s love for all his people.  Like John the Baptist in today’s gospel reading from St John, we are called to point to Jesus as the Son of God, the one who came to bring true life, eternal life, supernatural life, into the world. 

Fr. Bob Writes – January 12, 2020

This Sunday, we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  In the Eastern-Rite churches, they celebrate three events together on this day: the Epiphany, the Baptism of Jesus, and the changing of water into wine (from the second chapter of John’s gospel).  Unlike in the Western Church the Roman Catholic Church, who separate out these three occasions in chronological order, the Eastern Church telescope them together, because from a theological perspective, they are all “revelation” or “epiphany ” moments in the life of Jesus, manifesting his true nature and identity and role.

In the Baptism narrative, all three persons of the Trinity are present here.  The opening of the heavens recall the plea of Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 1:  “O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down…”  Israel, traumatized by their seventy years of exile and newly restored to their own country, which bears the scars of defeat, devastation and destruction, cry out to God for his help, restoration and healing.  That plea is finally answered by God at the baptism of his beloved Son, who declares that Jesus will be the one through whom this restoration and healing will take place.  So the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism is a word of testimony to his Son for all people to hear. 

How much was Jesus aware of his divine nature and identity?  Did he know it before his baptism, or was it only revealed to him at that time?  There has been a lot of theological discussion among scripture scholars about when Jesus knew of his divine identity.  Perhaps, as an adopted child may only discover this fact and his true identity after many years, so for Jesus this self-awareness only came about gradually.  We are told that Jesus “grew in wisdom” (Luke 2:52), rather than possessing it in fullness as he would have if retaining all the divine attributes, which he did at his incarnation (cf Philippians 2: 6-7).  The gospel writers do not go into the psychology of Jesus.  They focus on the truth that Jesus was the Son of God from the beginning, regardless of when he knew of his divine identity.  In the person of Jesus, the Son received from the Father only what he needed to complete his ministry … as he needed it … no more, no less – the same for each one of us.

Since the gifts of the Holy Spirit comprise the gifts of discernment, it is logical that when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, it was a very empowering, and not just merely symbolic, moment, gifting him for his upcoming ministry as the “suffering servant” of the Lord.