Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Baptism of the Lord: God is the source of happiness because through Baptism He gives meaning to our lives

Happiness. Everyone wants it. Our lives are spent in pursuit of it.

And as we bid goodbye to the old with 2010 and welcome the new year 2011 many put their desire for happiness into the form of resolutions, seeking to change aspects of their lives that did not work out to their satisfaction in the past in the hope that the future will bring the happiness of success in their endeavors and goals. There are those who recommend against making resolutions because they so often go unfulfilled and result in disappointment, the opposite of the reason for such in the first place.

From where does happiness come? What is its source? Experts tell us that happiness is not found in our feelings, as these come and go. Our emotions are often up and down and sometimes so without any reference to the reality around us. Happiness is also neither simply a lack of depression or sadness. Although in some cases these are so profound and long lasting that we need to seek professional help in order to alleviate them, the lack of them is not always experienced as a sense of fulfillment either.

A number of those who have spent time and effort in studying the human person and in attempting to help those who struggle in their search for happiness come into agreement around the idea that happiness results from finding meaning in our lives. It turns out that if we are so intent upon seeing and finding meaning in what we do each day we are too busy with the fulfillment this brings to waste much time in asking ourselves if we are happy.

Today we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. In the gospel for this holy Mass we proclaim once again the event of the Lord’s submission to the sign of repentance for sin administered by Saint John the Baptist at the river Jordan. How did baptism have meaning for the Lord if He had no sins for which He needed to repent? This event has meaning for us if we see in it the will of the Father that the Son live in total solidarity with sinful humanity. The Father’s love for us is what gives meaning to Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. Seeing, understanding and responding to this meaning gives us cause for happiness.

Our response to the Father’s call in Christ is our own faith seeking the grace of Baptism. In the graced life conferred by our own sacramental baptism we find the Father’s will to see the words and works of His Son emerge and take on form in our own lives. This is how the happiness of the Christian life becomes possible for us: the meaning for our lives and the source of happiness comes not from us, so lacking in constancy as we are and so subject through weakness to temptation and sin. No, if our happiness is to be truly secure, it must flow from the most secure and reliable of all sources: the love and grace of God the Father bestowed in Christ through the Spirit without beginning or end. This is the reason for our baptismal garment of grace, because through it we put on Christ and share with him by grace His image which pleases the Father, especially as we worship here at Mass.

How can we, practically speaking, learn to put on Christ, to grow in His image, to think His thoughts, to do as He would have us do, to grow in holiness? There are many ways in which the life of the Church offers us sources for growing in the meaning and grace of our baptism. I will focus here on only one of these. The Church throughout the ages has prayed the Psalms, as Christ Himself did, using these beautiful prayers of praise, petition and thanksgiving as the graced source, the Word of God, to think, pray and act in communion with the Father as it was so for Christ. The Psalms, as with all of Scripture, help us to put on the mind of Christ, to begin more and more to find His words of love and forgiveness in our mouths and His saving servanthood as the meaning for our actions and desires.

Anyone can be happy as the reasons for finding meaning in life are as many as there are people. In Christ God provides for the whole world the one meaning which can provide for everyone the unfailing, unending and infinite source of happiness for which the human mind and heart long. God Himself is the source of the meaning which brings happiness and even joy into our lives here and forever through the image and likeness of Christ conferred through the grace of our Baptism.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

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