One of the great lessons of Christianity is that no matter how bad our past has been, we can begin anew.
St. Paul was a zealous persecutor of the Christians before Jesus knocked him off his "high horse" on his way to Damascus. That kind of mission had won him a reputable status among the Jews, and he must have been gaining a lot from it. But when Jesus called, like the first four disciples he left everything to follow Jesus.
What I find fascinating is that Paul could have resisted the change, he could have rejected conversion, but he didn’t. He did not look back at the prestige and power he would lose among the Jews if he abandoned the course of leading the war against Christians.
If we are honest, many do not want to change from our sinful ways because of what we think we gain from them. We don't change simply because we don't want to. Some are reluctant to change because they feel that God cannot forgive them again.
But we must know that there is nothing that is greater than the mercy of God. Listen to the testimony of Paul himself, “… I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a rapid enemy. However, he took mercy on me… and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant” (1 Tim 1:13-14).
Your case shall not be different! As you make efforts to follow him, may his grace and mercy overflow in abundance for you, to guide you and protect you. But first you are going to have to want it!
Matthew was a tax collector, therefore considered a public sinner by the religion he belonged to. Yet Jesus broke protocols to call him. It is easy for us to condemn the sinner, cast aside the one who has done wrong, throw out the person living in sin.
However, that same Jesus broke the protocols for you and gave himself up on the wood of the cross just to save you, a sinner like Matthew. How did Matthew respond? He left everything to follow Jesus. More than that, he attracted people like him to also follow Jesus.
St John tells us that, having been healed, we too must also help others to become healed. Instead of condemning, casting aside, or throwing out the sinner, let us do our part to help him or her follow Jesus.
May God give us the grace to answer Jesus as he invites us daily to follow him. And may he redeem us from the sickness of condemning others who rather need our assistance to also get redemption.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I wish to focus on two themes. The first, it is a proclamation of who Jesus is - the Son of God the Messiah, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. By declaring Jesus his son, God confirms that Jesus shares the same divinity with him. Jesus is God! And Jesus reveals to us the image of God. This Jesus worked and died for that singular purpose to make us live the way God created us to live - in His image and likeness. St. Paul informs us that through him, we received the grace to reject worldly passions and embrace the life of grace which God offers us.
Secondly, in the Baptism of Jesus, we are invited to reflect on our own baptism and baptismal promises. As our baptism transforms us into another Christ, we are called also to show the image of God to others. It remains to be asked, when we encounter other people do they recognize the living presence of God in us?
We pray that the merciful love of God may abide in us at all times, and through us reach out to all the faces that desire it in our world. Amen.
Jesus is the light that shines for all to see. Jesus is the light to those who sit in darkness and the glory of the people of Israel. In Jesus, this light has no limitation nor obstruction; it does not discriminate nor does it falter.
This time between the celebration of the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - the last week of Christmas - we are given the same message given to the all those privileged to encounter the Baby Jesus in the manger - the message of salvation and joy.
Remember that the Magi were led to where Jesus was by the star. This star ; is anyone or anything that leads people to Jesus. Can you not also make a resolution today to be a star to all in this year?