I suspect we have all seen the phenomenon of birds flocking and then alighting on electrical wires. It always seems as if each bird knows what spot is assigned them. But what is most fascinating is that they do not get electrocuted. We know never to touch a power line, yet birds sit on the very same wires without any negative consequences whatsoever. There must be something in their physiology that protects them, but obviously they are totally immune to the electrical currents thrumming through the wires.* Observing this behavior led me to think of our spiritual lives and the protection we have been given. We are surrounded by dangers constantly, not just disease or mishaps on the freeway, but in the daily temptations to sin or to grow cool in our faith. More chilling is that often we are unaware of evil lurking, (Genesis 4:7). Even though we are created good, coolness in the faith, losing hope, becoming centered upon our own desires, etc., usually happen gradually, and therefore are of great danger. It is for this reason that God offers the Sacraments and other graces: He wants us to be fully protected against the dangers of everyday living which can take us away from our centeredness on Jesus. Therefore, this week’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is an important time for reflection because it reminds us of the gifts we have been given to withstand these temptations and ‘attacks.’ That Jesus was baptized, though He is the Author of Baptism, speaks loudly as to the importance of the power of grace and how much we are in need of it.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is the gateway from the season of Christmas to Ordinary Time. As we make the liturgical shift, we need to recognize the importance of this event. While it is perhaps true that Jesus wanted to model what His followers would need to do, the more important point is that it inaugurated His public ministry, giving witness to His presence as Messiah and Lord. The voice of the Father was heard saying that He was well pleased with His Son while a dove (the Holy Spirit) hovered overhead. Thus, the Trinity was revealed. But while this glorifies and identifies Jesus as the Son of God, it also reveals that our baptism fully immerses us into the life of the Trinity. It is not a mere symbol: when we are baptized we are immersed in and enter into the very essence of God as Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are given the power to have faith, to hope, and to love which grow when nurtured with prayer. These graces also protect us. Being immersed into the life of the Trinity means we have fully entered into love, mercy, compassion, peace, and all that makes up the Living God. Every Sacrament is an encounter with the Living God, but this one is an encounter that never ends: we encounter God every moment of every day, never less than fully immersed in Him.
Knowing this, then, should help us to realize that we are like those birds on the wires. That is, we have a spiritual protection system, namely that of grace. Interestingly, Jesus used the metaphor of birds when He said, “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Jesus is not saying that life will be easy or without dangers, but rather that we should totally depend on Him. At this point the dangers around us are increasing as our culture encourages in sometimes subtle and often insistent ways that we live in opposition to the gospels. We are given the message that it is okay to devalue life, to forego worship or prayer because 'we have better things to do,’ (or worse still, that it does not work!), to abandon common courtesy, and to disregard the Commandments. We are often told that our values are false, and more and more we are persecuted in some way if we try to live them. We are in danger in a culture that devalues religion and denies God, perpetuating the notion that self is all-important. We are in serious danger in a climate that seeks to divide and not unite.
But the Good News, and what we celebrate with the Baptism of the Lord, is that we have been offered grace; this power includes the mercy of God when we do fall into sin. We have the power of courage, discernment, self-control and to act justly; to be generous, kind, gentle, peaceful, and be willing to work together; to be patient in listening to those whose views are different than ours, and to even be joyful in the face of difficulties. (Galatians 5:22-23) We have these graces not only to protect and to guide us home to God, but also so that we would help Him in building the Kingdom. Especially in these difficult times, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:12-17) to protect our souls from the assaults of the evil one who wants to sow division, discord, and despair and we must hold firm to our baptismal gifts of faith, hope, and love. Let us claim these gifts and rejoice in the love of the One who gives them, so that we might be like the birds that do not fear the electrical wires, but rather find rest there.
May we utilize the baptismal gifts of faith, hope, and love we have been given! May we use the power of grace to continue to ask God for that which we need! May we have the courage to stand against the culture when it demands that we forsake our faith and values! And may we work for peace and justice with civility! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* Since I opened a 'can of worms' here, (pun intended), you can find the explanation of the phenomenon of birds on electric wires at this link: engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/how-do-birds-sit-on-high-voltage-power-lines-without-getting-electrocuted/
1. My photo, taken in the Big Island of Hawaii.
2. Fresco painting, The Baptism of Jesus by Blessed Fra Angelico.
3. Photo of birds on the wires. This is not my photo, (it is in the public domain); the credits are found at http://pdpics.com/photo/1007-birds-on-electric-wire/
4. Image, The Holy Spirit The Lord the Giver of Life The Paraclete Sender of Peace by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is important that we pray to the Holy Spirit for discernment and peace, particularly right now. You can find this image if you want to purchase a copy in one of many mediums at fineartamerica.com/featured/the-holy-spirit-the-lord-the-giver-of-life-the-paraclete-sender-of-peace-093-william-hart-mcnichols.html
5. My photo, taken in Fulshear, TX.
NOTE: In compliance with GDPR rules, I wish to make it clear that I do not gather any information on any of my readers at any time.
Heart Speaks to Heart