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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinJanuary 9, 2009 Issue 

Drawn to the banks of the Jordan

January 11, 2009 -- The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What are the special moments of grace in your life?

2. In what time zone do you live? Past, present, future? The time zone of grace?

3. Is the Eucharist a Jordan experience for you?

Not all is the same. A distinction is made between chronological time (chronos) and grace time (kairos). Chronology is when the past flows into the present which in turn, flows into the future. Kairos time (God's graced time) is when a particular moment is filled with a special light and love-like falling in love, or sacrificing for one's child, or being possessed by a sunset.

The baptism of Jesus was a special moment. At the Jordan River, Jesus knew himself to be the beloved of the Father. Baptism says, "you count," "you are important," "you are loved." With this love comes clarity (light) of being (life).

In our baptism we too heard that we are special in God's eyes. More, that through our participation in God's life we must accept responsibility for our lives and be good stewards of God's gifts. Through this sacrament we enter into a community of faith, hope and love. Through baptism we are called to maturity, holiness, community and service.

Another kairos moment in our readings today is the experience of St. Peter. He began to realize that in God there is no partiality. This awareness transformed Peter's life. In Jesus, all are called to salvation and all have access to grace and reconciliation. St. Peter's horizons were expanded to such a degree that salvation was seen as both a personal and communal offering. We might even label Peter's experience a "Jordan" experience.

Upon reflection, each of us can probably make a list of times of special grace. For St. Paul, it was on the road to Damascus where he encountered the Lord; for Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, it was the day when, from the sycamore tree, he was invited to host the Lord at table. Jesus, the risen Lord continues to break into our lives at first communion, when we are confirmed, when our sings are forgiven, when we are anointed in our suffering, when people are married or ordained, when, Sunday after Sunday, we break bread and hear God's word. Time and time again we venture down to the Jordan River to experience the love of God.

It is possible that for some of us, time is one day after another without a sense of baptism being a lived reality. One reason for this is that the dominant consciousness in our culture is agnostic. Our culture tends to put all reality in the here and now; there is little sense of 'transcendence.' Our sacraments invite us here and now to participate in the eternal. Kairos is happening all the time. The poet Hopkins tells us that "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things." We need the eyes of faith to see this."

Jesus did. He saw the workings of his Father; he heard the Father's voice; he did the Father's will. Kairos times carry a heavy responsibility. When God breaks into our lives we are under the banner of the kingdom. No longer is our will supreme. No surprise, therefore, that we tend to enjoy our blindness and deafness. In such a condition we can do what we want, not what the Lord asks of us.

When our high school juniors are confirmed, they renew their baptismal promises. In a sense they are drawn to the banks of the Jordan and there, with Jesus, upon hearing of God's love, they profess their faith in a creative, redeeming, sanctifying God. For some, for most I hope, confirmation is a kairos experience that has transformative power.

(Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.)

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