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Who Are We?

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

After the recent attack on the National Capitol, several people said “This is not who we are.” Well, if “we” means everybody, all the citizens, then in part, at least, it is who we are. Some of “us,” our brothers and sisters, decided to resort to force to challenge the peaceful transition of power. This peaceful transition has been a hallmark of this country.

There have been other contested elections, leading to some underlying anger I am sure, but none of the parties resorted to violent force to try to change things. There is something stirring in “us,” the people, that is unhealthy and dangerous.

Among other things, there seems to be an ever-present streak of racism in this backlash. Historically, there have been other occasions when people of color or ethnic minorities seemed to be gaining some deserved power in society, where there has been a white backlash against them.

Who are we? We who claim to be Christian and followers of Jesus are to see all people as our brothers and sisters. How are we doing? It is again for each of us to look deep inside and see if there are roots of fear and prejudice.

If I am white, how really do I feel about people of darker skin? If I am of dark skin, how do I feel about white people? (Some fear might be understandable.) If I am a man, how do I feel about women gaining more of their deserved freedom and power? We could go on to thoughts about religion, sexual orientation, or other designations.

When people say “this is not who we are,” we are called by Christ to examine who we truly are, and look to him for guidance, wisdom, and healing.

Baptism of Jesus

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

We close the Christmas Season with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I’m sure, as this day comes along each year, some people ask, “Why would Jesus have to be baptized?” Traditionally we have connected baptism with the removal of “original sin,” as well as our entry into the Church. Also, in the Bible the baptism of John is called a “baptism of repentance.” In view of all of this, why would Jesus have to be baptized?

First of all, there is no “have to,” no necessity in Jesus being baptized. We should see this event as symbolizing something that God, in Christ, chose to do. It continues what we have been celebrating at Christmas time: Incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came to be with us in our human experience. And so he asked John to baptize him as a way of showing that he is truly with us.

Our way of being with Jesus begins with our baptism. Jesus was proclaimed the beloved Son in whom God is well pleased. We share in that: each of us is a beloved daughter or son of God. It is important to truly believe that. We have value simply in being human beings, sons and daughters of God. In difficult moments maybe we forget that, or lose sight of our basic value.

Whatever our experience, Jesus stands shoulder to shoulder with us on the journey. That is very much the meaning of why he participated in the baptism of John.

The Sign of the Cross

By Fr. Tom Zelinski, OFM Cap.

We are in the beginning of a New Year. It is the custom of Catholics to begin and end many things with the Sign of the Cross. I believe that it is good for us to stop and take a look at things that are very familiar to us. There is a danger that they might become too familiar, and easily passed over.

I suggest that when we make the Sign of the Cross, we do it consciously and deliberately. Sometimes, to see the gesture made by some people, we can apply the joking phrase, “the swatting of flies!”  We must not judge, of course, but we can observe.

At the baptism of a child, parents and godparents are invited to sign the child on the forehead with a Sign of the Cross as a way of welcoming the child into the Church. So we are signed with the Sign of Christ from the beginning. It is also a reminder that our bodies, and not only our spirits, are to live in service of Christ in the world.

In normal times, when we enter the church building, we use holy water and sign ourselves as a reminder of our baptism. And so we ought to consciously and deliberately touch our forehead, our chest, and our shoulders, reminding ourselves that, as Christians, whatever we do, it is done under the Sign of the Cross of Christ.

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