To this Seeds of Hope, I have attached Mission Prayerline, a short mission story and prayer intention. Please page down to see it.
Scripture Reading for Today: Mark 1:7-11 (read it here)
The Gospel of Mark starts differently—no shepherds, no angels, no Magi, no star, no stable, not a word about Mary and Joseph, no list of ancestors, no birth of Jesus or his early years.
In Mark’s story, Jesus walks on to the stage as a grown man and begins his public life at the river Jordan, where he enters the waters with others to be washed in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
And we immediately ask the question: “Why did Jesus need to be baptized since he was without sin? Of what did he need to repent if he was God’s holiness on earth?”
But for the people of his day—including the first disciples—our question would be puzzling, and they might have answered: “Why not?”
And, from Jesus’ viewpoint, to respond to John’s call for baptism, may have seemed the only good and righteous thing to do, because this is where he would spend his life and eternity—among the marginalized and the sick, the broken and hurting of every time and place—eating with them, talking with them, healing them, proclaiming to them God’s infinite mercy, and pointing them to the kingdom of heaven.
In other words, with his baptism, Jesus openly and decisively stands shoulder to shoulder with each of us in our fears and joys, our anxieties and certainties, and our wounds and triumphs. He intentionally takes sides with us in our weaknesses and strengths, our faults and failures, and our pains and problems and declares that God is biased in our favor.
Now we understand: Mark’s Christmas story is the account of Jesus’ baptism, because Jesus accepts baptism as an act of solidarity with the entire human race and shows the entire world what it means for the Word to become flesh.
Above all, it is at his baptism that a voice fills Jesus’ ears and soul, giving him assurance that he is indeed God’s “beloved son with whom [He] was well pleased.” This is the positive assurance that Jesus would need during his temptation, his time of ministry, his nights of prayer, and through his trial and sufferings.
The voice that speaks to Jesus at his baptism is the same voice that speaks to each of us, saying, “You—whatever our name may be—are my beloved son/daughter.”
Being children of a loving God then, is our true identity and definition, regardless of what we do for a living, what we have, or what others think of us.
For some of us, it is difficult to accept the fact that we remain God’s “beloved sons and daughters” despite all our failures and rebellions. We find it hard to believe that still we are God’s “beloved” sons and daughters even when we eat and drink to excess or when our tongue electrocutes everyone who dares to contradict us. We find it strange that we do not stop being God’s “beloved” sons and daughters even when our business takes us where we have no business being, or when we treat dirt with more respect than we treat people around us.
But Jesus’ Baptism shows us that—for the love of you and me—he chooses to walk our journey with us to the very end, not only once in a while, but always, because he really is “Emmanuel,” God for us all and God among us all, without regard to age, race, gender, national origin, creed, education, handicap, or anything else, down to the last and worst and ugliest scoundrel among us. And God’s abundant and immediate mercy is always available if we turn to him with a sincere heart and will to mend our ways.
As we break the bread and share the cup of the Eucharist, Jesus fills us with the awareness that we share with him his divine sonship and favor. Jesus was baptized into our humanity so that we might be baptized into his divinity.
By the way we live, let us make God our Father proud of having us as his children.
In union with Mary, let us live in such a way that we can be mistaken for her son Jesus.
The Secret Lives of Vietnam’s Catholic Mothers
Mary Nguyen closes the door carefully and says evening prayers with her two children in her room whenever her husband comes home late from work.
And Nguyen, who lives in the house of her Buddhist parents-in-law, quietly takes them to weekend Masses once or twice a month at a church near her own parents’ home in Vietnam’s southern Ho Chi Minh City.
She has to pretend to her parents-in-law that she takes the children to visit her parents so they can go to church.
Her husband and parents-in-law do not want them to embrace Christianity before they turn 18, when they say the children can decide for themselves what religion to follow. They have threatened to turn her out of their home if she takes the children to church.
The grandparents do not know their grandchildren are Catholics as she had them—a girl and a boy—baptized while she was living for months at her parents’ home after she gave birth to them.
She tries to help instill faith in her children while their grandmother regularly takes them to Buddhist temples.
Nguyen, who works for a local printing company, said her husband, a Communist Party member, converted to Catholicism when he married her. However, he subsequently jettisoned the faith and often checks on whether the children have secretly gone to church.
She forgives him and tries to be a good Christian so that she can bear witness to the Good News.
Although she feels a bit tense when dealing with her husband and his parents, she has a bounden duty to offer faith education to her children.
Many Catholic women who marry non-Christians and live in the houses of their parents-in-law, run into difficulties over religious practice and education.
Patriarchy still predominates in many families where women are considered to belong to their husbands’ families and are expected to obey family norms after marrying. Their children are often taught to follow the husband’s religion.
In some cases, Communist Party members who marry Catholic women ban their children from embracing Christianity, as they fear their official positions will be adversely affected.
Local Catholics say the Hail Mary three times during daily Masses for families experiencing difficulties, and parishioners comfort them in times of family illness or death.
Anna Tran Thi Ngoc Duyen, whose husband divorced her when her daughter was four years old, carries her on a motorbike for 10 kilometers to attend Mass each week. Her daughter also joins catechism classes, Eucharistic adoration, camps, and charitable work.
She hopes she will openly follow Catholicism when she reaches 18 years of age and her father will accept her decision.
Duyen, who works as a journalist, said her husband, who converted from Buddhism to Catholicism at her family’s request, renounced Catholicism and asked her to take down an altar months after their wedding.
She says “I am wrong to have married a husband of a different religion. He converted to Catholicism to marry me, not for faith.”
Almighty God and Father, we pray:
For those suffering because of their Christian faith, that the Holy Spirit may fortify them with the courage to remain strong in faith, as well as with the charity to forgive their persecutors;
For your faithful who suffer for your name’s sake, that you would grant them a spirit of patience and charity, that they may be found true and faithful witnesses to the promises you have made;
For those who suffer persecution for their faithful service to you, that they may rejoice to be united to the sacrifice of Christ your Son and may know that their names are written in heaven among the company of the elect;
For those who follow your Son in bearing their cross, that they may, in every trial, glory in the name of Christian;
Your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his resurrection he restores life and peace in all creation. Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance and those oppressed by their fellow humans.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Join Me for Live Bible Study Meetings via Zoom
Please follow this link for details.
Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
If you found this helpful, please share it. We love meeting new friends.