Today's story of the baptism of Jesus is a very important!! It can be a reminder of our own baptism and of the times we brought children to church to be baptized. Jesus fulfilled the law by coming to John the Baptist to have cleansing water poured over him. Even though Jesus had committed no sin he fulfilled the law by participating in this ceremony. He heard God's voice from above that said, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased".
I am deeply troubled by the shooting of the innocent children and faculty at Newtown, Connecticut. The faculty members that died protecting the children in that horrific event I am sure could hear the message Jesus hear at the river Jordan when they arrived in heaven, "I am well pleased with you". We do not have to die, however, to do the right thing. I would like to review our actions and responses today as we continue to present our precious children for baptism.
One of basic responsibilities to the newly baptized is to change our actions into peaceful actions that will not threaten or harm anyone. I believe that we as a society have become violent. Every day I listen on the news about someone being shot or threatened or people engaged in a robbery. None of us here at Jesus Our Shepherd have engaged in clearly violent acts. But, we all continue to act in ways that can be violent. Perhaps we should put a moratorium on baptisms for a year so we can relearn what it means to become a more peaceful people. I am not really suggesting that we do that but we need to come to grips that too many children are killed all over our nation and the many ways people are not being kind and caring to others. What can we do to become a more peaceful people who are concerned about the rash of shootings, holdups, domestic violence, anger, and bulling?
The answer starts with recognizing the violence in our own hearts. I have used material from the Pax Christi to help me reflect about violence that isn't always thought about. I used to take the Vow of Non Violence every year to remind myself that I can be a violent person if I do not steps to regulate my behavior. The other day I took out a copy of the vow to help me with this subject of the responsibilities of individuals, the church and families who are trying to raise their children responsibly. It was humbling to review the vow because I have not always been faithful to it.
For me the most difficult challenge is to be nonviolent in tongue and heart. This means that not only am I not to speak rudely and cruelly to others, it means that I must not talk behind someone's back. Not only does that mean I must be courteous to others I must be nonviolent in my heart towards that person. It is easy for children and others to notice our non verbal behaviors when we are in a conversation and after we leave the presence of another. How many times have we given a mixed message to our children about someone's behavior or actions? Doing this is an act of violence. And our children mimic us.
Another part of nonviolence is resisting evil in whatever form and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war. It is not enough to hope and expect our government to act on behalf of us. There is much talk now about stopping violence by laws at the national level. We need to express our views to our legislators and congress people about what direction our society and communities should follow. That means we should get involved in conversations and dialogue about ways we believe are correct to end violence in our cities and country. We need to make an effort to work for non violence on every level.
Violence can be very intrusive in our families. How often do we shout at others we live with, make fun of actions that are not funny to the individual and not apologize when we are wrong. All of our actions as adults are passed on to our children. Violence can only be stopped when it is recognized. Part of the consequences of public baptism means we have to be aware of our actions and how they affect the members in our own family and the family of Jesus our Shepherd. Even our driving can be a window for children and young adults to see if we are nonviolent when we respond to other drivers. It is very difficult to live a nonviolent life by ourselves. We need help from others to be open to hear how what we say and do can be nonviolent.
There is so much media in America that puts violent scenes right in front of us. Acts of kindness and caring are not usually noticed. My friend in Florida sent a message to my Facebook asking that five people do five acts of kindness to five other people and he will respond in kind. I am going to accept his invitation to try to do an act of kindness to five people a week. Certainly love, acceptance, and kindness is one way that we can start to begin non violent activities that could begin to change the world.
Baptism and what it represents is a good place to start. Taking our responsibilities seriously is a mere beginning. We are living in difficult times. I want my God to welcome me home and say, "My daughter welcome home. I am pleased that you tried to do what is right".