21 November 2010

Feast of Christ the King: Looking at the Baptismal Call

It was hard not to think again of the issue of esteem for vocations to the lay state as I listened to the proclamation of today's second reading from Paul's Letter to the Colossians. It was especially hard not to do so as we approach Thanksgiving and celebrate the gift of citizenship in this country and the freedom it brings. All the more so should this be a day which allows us to call to mind our citizenship in the Kingdom where Christ is sovereign and the freedom and responsibilities which stem from THAT identity! Here are the words that called all this to mind for me: "Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin." In these words and those that follow (a very early hymn about Jesus as the image of the invisible God) we bring to a degree of culmination all the things we have come to share in more fully this liturgical year and we do so with gratitude.

Brothers and sisters, adopted daughters and sons of God in Christ, inheritors of the Kingdom of God that exists proleptically right here and right now in our world, those who truly image God in Christ and who recognize all of this as what it means to belong to the Laos (People) of God --- that is who we have been CALLED by God to be --- and who we are (hopefully) grateful to be --- for God's own sake, for our own, and for the sake of the Church and World. We would be none of these things without baptism. They are all implied by belonging to the lay state. In fact, they define what the lay state IS. Forgiveness of sin? Yes of course, but a forgiveness that makes us one with God through his Son and sets us apart from the rest of the world in a consecration we are called to honor.

Today in the liturgy and through the rest of the coming week we have some time to further recognize Christ as sovereign in our lives. More, we have a bit of time to invite him to become truly sovereign in our lives, time to claim the gift of Baptism more fully, time to esteem this charisma of God which is the foundation of our Christian existence, time to renew our baptismal promises and to reflect on how they oblige us to live in this world at this time now that we are adults and mature Christians. Next week we begin the liturgical year anew, so we look back this week at all the ways we have grown and failed to grow, all the ways we are grateful to God for his gifts, all the ways we have overlooked them as well.

In this regard we may find ourselves feeling a great deal of empathy for the thief who hangs next to Jesus dying and who finds in him hope for being remembered by God. In Luke's day God's remembering was not simply a kind of notional calling to mind -- akin to figuring out where we put the car keys, for instance. In Luke's world, and especially in the Semitic world, for God to remember meant for him to give life to something by holding it in his mind and heart. Remembering was very literally an act of holding in existence and in Christ holding in existence (com-prehending) was to do so in a uniquely intimate and comprehensive way which makes whole and coherent once again (as today's second reading reminds us, "He is before all things and in him all things hold together/cohere.") When, during Good Friday services we sing with this very thief, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom" we affirm him as sovereign or King and we recall the gift he gave us at baptism as we were plunged into his death and raised up with him to new life: we are the ones who were called and have been re-called; we are those who were broken and even lost and are now re-membered; we are the ones whose lives were once senseless but through baptism have been made coherent, meaningful, part of the very People (laos) of God whom he regards as uniquely precious and will never forget or let taste decay.

In these last days before the new Church and liturgical year begins please let us take the time to reflect on the meaning of our baptism (and our confirmation) and the promises that were made there: the renunciations and the affirmations or professions. This is no beginner's identity, no second class citizenship or childhood vocation, no half-hearted or pro forma adoption on God's part. Let us make sure we, no matter our vocation, both believe and embody the truth of all of this in our world! For God's grace and assistance in this for all of us, I especially pray this year.