|You are Mine|
There was a kid I knew in high school by the name of Vince Ventimiglia. It was big highschool, I guess I should say he was an acqaintance, not a close friend. I always thought that Vince was an Italian Catholic, although I never saw him at my local parish. One day, when I was in my first year of college, we ran into each other at a gas station. He had a great smile when I greeted him and asked him what he was doing those days. He replied: I'm a minister! This was a real shock to me, not because I thought he wasn't worthy or something (who is worthy anyway?), but because I had been in the seminary already two years and had another seven years to go! (I was in the seminary nine years before I was ordained a priest, starting my senior year of high school, through four years of college, and then four years of theological studies.) I felt a tinge of jealousy too, when he said "I'm a minister," so confidently and I would have to wait so long to say the same. As it turned out, Vince wasn't Catholic, but was a Jehovah's Witness.
The point I'm getting at is that we don't think of ourselves as ministers- we're not ordained. The Catechism in the Prayer Book asks the question: Who are the ministers of the Church? And the answer is: The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons. And where does our ministry, our being ministers begin? It's at our Baptism and strengthened in our Confirmation.
Every year the First Sunday of Epiphany celebrates the Baptism of Jesus by John at the river Jordan. What's the scene there? If we were Stephen Spielberg making a movie we'd have hundreds of people down by the riverside, wading one by one toward John the Baptizer, confessing their sins out loud: "I stole from a man, I'm an adulterer, I blasphemed against God, I killed a man, etc." As John baptized one after another, the river water became dirtier and dirtier with people's sins. Along comes Jesus, the sinless one, and he walks into the filthy water (metaphor) toward John and, after John's heart skips a beat and he hesitates, Jesus is baptized like all the others. A dove descends on Jesus and a Voice declares "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
It is right after his baptism that the Spirit drives Jesus into the desert where his call to ministry is tested (normal for a person to encounter disorientation, temptation, crisis of faith that the Evil One unleashes), begins his ministry of bringing good news to the world: He will make it possible for everyone who believes in him to live a new life, to live each day with the Epiphany gift of the possibilility of a change of fortune free of the scapegoating ways of humankind.
It took many years before I realized that I could have said to Vince: That's great! I'm a minister too!
Just as Jesus began his ministry after his baptism, we too begin our ministry after our baptism. As we read the Gospel today, it is important to realize that God says the same words over us: You are my beloved, with you I am well pleased. And, if it gnaws at us that we were baptized as an infant and didn't know what was going on, then our Confirmation at a more mature age can renew and reinforce the Holy Spirit's power in us. And, if it's been a long time since our confirmation, then let today, as we renew our baptismal promises, be a new beginning to our ministry! We've been ordained! We have been chosen to serve the Lord! Really!
We heard what Isaiah prophesied to the chosen people of his day, and by extension, to each one of us:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
In a moment we will renew the promises we took, or were taken for us, at our Baptism. This brings us to the same state we were in at our baptism- a complete new beginning, forgiven everything, filled with the Holy Spirit. Do not fear. God is with you. You are a minister. This is real, this is not a drill, this is NOW.
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE