Life after Epiphany


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After Epiphany…? Baptism!!

Isn’t it funny how, as we keep unfolding our own lives through the normal course of the passage of time, we chance across considerations that – as obvious as they seem right now – never occurred to us before? I feel like a mighty great “DUH!!!!” is echoing down the ages!

Almost two years ago, I started this blog to be my outlet as I muddled through what life after epiphany should look like.

The answer was there all along, of course. Right there in the Liturgical Calendar!! The Sunday that follows Epiphany is the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, and this is RICH in significance… so much so that I daresay that I will continue to be unfolding this for many years to come. Some initial thoughts do occur to me now, though.

1. Mission
Our Lord’s Baptism was the beginning of His public ministry. It seems fitting that a ritual associated with conversion (even though we know Our Lord was sinless and had no personal need for conversion) leads into a life that takes on a new, higher purpose. We see the same most clearly in the conversion of St Paul and his subsequent life as a missionary. I can’t help but think that it is of crucial importance that I should be considering at this time, after my own special epiphany experience, the meaning of my own Baptism some 33 years ago, and the fact that I am called by virtue of that Baptism to be a worker in the Lord’s vineyard (c.f. Christifideles Laici). My experiences in my former religious community were fitting me for a special task in His service.

2. Suffering
In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI highlights that the premise of Baptism is the admission of sinfulness. In the Sinless One receiving Baptism, He “loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p18). My time in formation gave me a clearer insight into what some of my personal weaknesses and tendencies towards sinfulness are. I know specifically much of what it was that Our Lord bore particularly for me down into the Jordan riverbed of Rita Simmond’s poem (c.f. Magnificat, January edition 2015, p150). I also know that to be Baptised and to share in His Sonship is to share in all aspects of His life – including His suffering and His death. Has my time in religious life, my unique experience of His love, changed the way I can follow Him on that path? One thing is for sure – if this is the path that I’m walking, I want it to bear fruit, and abundantly! Fruit that I can offer back to Him as a gift of thanksgiving.

3. Fulfillment
Sharing in His death, we know, entails sharing then in His Resurrection afterward!! Pope Benedict reminds us that Luke, in his Gospel, located the Baptism of Our Lord at the conclusion of his presentation of the Genealogy of Christ (p 10). Christ is the anointed one, the Messiah, the fulfilment of all the great prophecies. Christ is likewise the fulfilment of my deepest desires. He gives me glimpses of the future from time to time, to help support me in my own weakness. Being weaker than most, I also needed a special, prolonged time of intimacy with Him in the cloister. But that is just the promise. Christ Himself is the fulfillment. And so I need to stop looking back over my shoulder at what has been, except to remember His goodness to me and give thanks. I need to keep forging on ahead, following Him every step of the way, to that ultimate fulfilment, that eternity with Him.

Deo gratias!!

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Don’t let academic hubris hijack theology…

infancyNarrativesJacket

I discovered something very ugly in myself today, as I reflected upon an event in my past.

As a novice, I was writing a paper that involved some exegetical work with the Psalms. During my private prayer and study, I encountered a fairly involved connection between one of the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew that excited me greatly! I added it to my paper as part of the case I was trying to build to support the central thesis of the paper and thought little more of it until the following day.

At the evening meal the following day, I was sitting at table with my sisters in the refectory, and listening to the spiritual reading selection of the evening as is monastic custom. Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was hot off the presses and we were hearing it for the first time the very week it was released.

That evening at table, I heard THE VERY SAME EXEGESIS that I had prepared on the day prior, read from the work of the then Holy Father. Exegetical method AND conclusion were almost identical. And here it was, published by the Holy Father! But when I had typed it the day prior, that very same argument had been my own original work. Supposedly original.

So here is where my ugliness crept in.

I started getting all upset about INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY of all things. Can you think of anything more ridiculous than wanting to compete with the Pope over the intellectual property?

An account of my folly: I went to see my superior first thing the following morning. I wanted to know what to do from an academic honesty perspective. I didn’t want to cite the Holy Father. I felt I was justified in claiming the work as my own, given that I HAD arrived at the conclusions before encountering them elsewhere, even though they had existed elsewhere prior to my discovery of them. I wanted to use the electronic timestamp on the document in which I had written my paper to demonstrate that my conclusion was written prior to the night that it had been read to us at table.

PRIDE. How it corrupts the beauty that God created in me.

I write of it now because I refuse to let shame take a hold. Shame is a lie. Of COURSE I’m weak – why be scandalised by that?  Here is an opportunity. Out of the depths I can call upon the Lord. Out of my weakness, I can still witness to the Truth.

What is Truth, here?

I call upon ALL who read, study and pray with Scripture to recall that ANY time we are able to draw something from the Sacred Text, it is RECEIVED. It is a GIFT. It is the Word, GIVEN to us.

The conclusion I reached when working with the Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew? It wasn’t mine. It was given to me, by the very same God who gave it to the Holy Father. Instead of resenting that he got there first, what on EARTH am I doing not giving thanks that such a thing was revealed to me, a mere child? (And a spoiled child at that!!) I give thanks now, and offer my very failure to do so earlier to the Lord that He may bring good out of it.

Curious to know what the exegetical conclusion was? Go read Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Benedict XVI. In the meantime, I pray for humility, and I return to my study of the Scriptures… on my knees.