Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
From Baptism to Discipleship. Christ in the Lenten Season.
Baptism is key to understanding Lent. Renewing our baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season. This time of penance and preparation in fact started in the first centuries of the Church as a time for those awaiting baptism. An intense time or prayer to die to sin and be risen anew in Christ. Today I want to reflect more about the meaning of baptism, looking at the story portrayed in Luke 3:7-18, which is not part of today's reading, but a reminder of the call to live our baptism as a witness of compassion.
When John the Baptist preached to a crowd gathered at the Jordan River to be baptized, his manner of speech seemed harsh. But harsh is not my impression of a man whose voice cried out from his home in the wilderness, a man who was clear, direct, and honest as he revealed the naked truth.
On the banks of the river, John preached to a unique crowd of farmers, tax collectors and soldiers. The presence of farmers was not surprising because they had been marginalized by the more powerful and were desperate to take shelter in God’s word and be baptized. However, the presence of the powerful tax collectors and soldiers is more intriguing. The rich tax collectors had surrounded themselves with power instead of investing in the people and the community. The politically-powerful soldiers had misused their positions without fear of justice. If the poor farmers were the victims of the rich and politically powerful, what could the others fear? The rich were the victim of their own greed and the soldiers were the victim of their own arrogant behaviors toward the powerless. No matter their role or status in society, all were victims of fear.
Although the farmers saw themselves as powerless, God saw their heart and therefore, John encouraged them to share even what little they have. To the others, however, baptism, as John explained, was just the beginning of a long journey of being faithful and compassionate towards others.
John the Baptist was an amazing example of how to embody both risk and transformation. He stood by his values and preached the truth without the fear of the consequences. Truth combined with love and mercy protects the truth from being used as a tool of revenge or hate. When the Baptist told the truth, it came from a loving and caring heart, he could listen to the needs of all. He even honored who they were, but asked them to act with less self-interest, in the way they would like to be treated in return, with mercy.
In this time of Lent, in which we reflect on our own baptism, do you hear the voice of John the Baptist crying to you from the wilderness? Do you ask yourself, "What then should I do?" Do you hear the spirit encouraging you “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”, for everyone and everywhere? (Micah 6:8).
Associate Chaplain, Office of Campus Ministry