January 15, 2023
Sister Ana Cloughly, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34
Reality is far Bigger than what is Visible.
Today’s reading comes from the Gospel of St. John where John the Baptist shares his experience when baptizing Jesus. John says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
John’s whole ministry was a preparation for the coming of the messiah.
I’ve heard it said that Jesus accepted John’s baptism in solidarity with sinful humanity. Along with baptizing the people with water to symbolize their repentance, John’s baptism would reveal the one for whom John was preparing. In the moment of Jesus’ baptism, everything changed, not just for John or Jesus, but for the whole world. Something miraculous occurred: the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and rested upon Jesus and stayed with him. John saw it. What changed?
John tells us that Jesus was the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Baptism with the Holy Spirit brings the baptized into the inner life of the Trinity. We, you and I, live within the love dynamic of God. God the Lover, Jesus the Beloved and their reciprocated Love which is the Holy Spirit. Living within the love, dynamic of God changes everything, transforms everything.
In his homily on Christmas Day here at the monastery, Father Jeff Cooper told us that Jesus came for you and for me in love. He said, (I am paraphrasing), beyond the sweet nativity plays performed by children, there is a deeper truth of Christmas. God, taking on our humanity opens the opportunity for us to be transformed through love. You and I are God’s beloved. Our transformation is from the Beloved into the Lover.
The truth of our transformation from the Beloved into the Lover, struck something deep inside of me. It resonated throughout my whole being. I have spent time just being in that place of love. I’ve spent so much of my time wrestling with the concept of Triune God and have failed to be consciously aware that I am living in the midst of that God.
Even before baptism, in the very act of God creating us, we are God’s beloved. At baptism we are brought into the inner life of the trinity. For us, as for Jesus, the Holy Spirit (Love) comes to us in baptism and remains with us. The process of transformation begins.
Godfrey Diekmann, OSB., a monk of the Benedictine monastery in Collegeville, Minnesota was at the second Vatican Council and was a preeminent liturgist. When asked about the one thing he thought was most important to come out of the council, he replied, “The mystical body of Christ.” What does that mean, the mystical body of Christ? He said that it means we are all connected, we are all one.
We are all connected, we are all one. We are, you and I, the beloved of God, as Jesus is the beloved of God. How does the transformation from beloved to lover happen? The truth is we don’t really know. And some might say our belief cannot be proven. Some may say our belief is arrogant, but I don’t think so. Our faith tells us that all are God’s beloved, whether baptized or not. In our very creation, we know that we are God’s beloved. Our transformation or at least my transformation is slow, and perhaps not as visible as I’d like. In the same way that I believe that the elements of bread and wine are transformed into the body of Christ, I believe that we are transformed, if we allow ourselves to be. When the priest pours the water into the wine, he says. “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Now I can’t prove that what I believe is taking place. But with the advances in quantum physics, we are discovering that there is much more to creation than what our human eyes can see, or are human minds conceive. We know that we exchange atoms, ions, and subatomic particles all the time. We now know that there is something called quantum tunneling where particles can penetrate and go through what we consider solid objects. I don’t think that I need to empirically prove my beliefs. However, we are discovering that there is so much more than we currently know. And I think of the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary when he announced the coming of Jesus, God, taking on human form. When Mary asked how can this be the angel replied all things are possible with God. Truly all things are possible with God and just because science can (or can’t) explain something doesn’t make it less divine. The most amazing discovery of quantum physics for me is that we finally realize the truth many religions have proclaimed for centuries: we are all connected. Not just all of humanity, but all of creation.