January 10, 2021 – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/011021.cfm)
Are Filipinos more religious because of Covid-19? This is the title of the analysis of Jayeel Cornelio, PhD, a sociologist of religion. This article was published in October 25 at rappler.com. The article discussed significant subjects particularly on the survey done by Pulse Asia last September 2020.
The survey revealed that 51.8% of Filipinos have become more religious during this pandemic. According to Dr. Cornelio, this is not surprising because of two reasons.
First, we are known to be one of the most religious societies in the world. And according to Pew Research Center, 96% percent of Filipinos find it “necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.”
Second, Dr. Cornelio said, “faith is our immediate resource in times of crisis.” Citing another survey by the Veritas Truth Survey, it revealed that 89% percent of the responders of the survey said that faith is “very important” in the fight against Covid-19.
From here, the sociologist also concluded that because of the “vulnerable social and economic context,” that is, being a third world country, the pandemic promotes a higher religiosity in us. In his words he said, people in poor social conditions such as having “inadequate health care, high incidence of conflict, and unreliable state agencies” – people feel that they can turn to nothing else but faith in God.
Indeed, it is when we become vulnerable and poor that we become more conscious of God’s presence. When we become more aware that we have actually nothing and are nothing in this world, that we also begin to realize of that great presence of God.
A very comfortable life, a rich and powerful lifestyle can easily bring us into the attitude of indifference. It is indifference that prevents us to recognize that God is with us and continues to be present in the world.
Moreover, at the end of his article, Dr. Cornelio also wrote that “there is so much more to COVID-19 than simply challenging the core of people’s religious convictions. In the end, it’s not just that Filipinos have become more religious because of this crisis. They are also beginning to seek something ‘more’ from their faith.”
This sociological analysis brings me now to our very identity as baptized Christians. More than this survey of our religiosity, there is also a need to examine ourselves whether we have grown really in our faith, in our relationship with God and with one another. Our faith is not just about kneeling and standing, holding a rosary and saying our novenas. As Dr. Cornelio said, there is something “more” that we begin to seek from our faith. This “more” is something that I invite you now to pay attention as we celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus.
To be able to discern this “more” from our faith, allow me to journey with you through the readings and to see how God reveals His invitations for us today.
In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah proclaimed the presence of the Servant of the Lord. The servant’s identity were described in three points. First, the Lord said, “he is my chosen one with whom I am pleased.” This servant is loved very much by the Lord God, thus, God’s presence rests upon him. Second, the servant is to bring justice through compassion and gentleness of his presence and not through violence and force. Isaiah described and said, “a bruised reed he shall not break, a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” This servant is hope for those who are hopeless and are suffering. Third, the servant is to open the eyes of the blind and free prisoners and those who live in darkness. The servant who brings hope also brings peace, freedom and new life.
The Psalm also stated this, “The Lord will bless his people with peace.” Peace here is living in the presence of God who is present in all creation. And the recognition of God’s presence in everything and in everyone brings us to show respect and love.
This very promise of God is fulfilled and revealed in the Acts of the Apostles and in today’s Gospel. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter proclaimed that this servant whom God chose is Jesus of Nazareth. He is anointed with the Holy Spirit and power. This is shown in the ministry of Jesus “in doing good” and in “healing the oppressed by the devil.”
This is what we also find in the Gospel of Mark. The baptism of Jesus was a revelation to us that Jesus is the servant spoken by Isaiah. The scenarios in the Gospel are also very important told to us in three actions.
First is the “immersion of Jesus in the water” was an expression of complete confidence in the Father. The Psalm proclaimed to us that “the voice of the Lord is over the waters, the Lord, over the vast waters.” Here, Jesus allowed the power of His Father to embrace him.
The second action is the “Spirit descending like a dove.” This is the very presence of God allowing our eyes to behold where it rests. The Spirit of God is in Jesus, the Lord who is among us. This tells us of the presence of God not just above us, but here among us.
The third action is the voice heard coming from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” This has been proclaimed also by Isaiah.
- First, we are all loved. Never forget that.
- Second, God’s presence is among us. We do not have to look above and seek God’s presence in the clouds. Look around also. God’s Spirit rests here among us.
- Third, our baptism compels us to bring justice and peace. Isaiah reminds us that this will be realized not through violence and force but through compassion and gentleness of our presence.
- Fourth, to bring justice and peace is to also participate in the ministry of Jesus. This ministry is to open the eyes including our eyes blinded by greed, anger and indifference. And to free our hearts imprisoned by hatred, sin and guilt.
Thus, the “more” in our faith is to make Jesus more present in our actions and words, and more present in our hearts, homes and communities. Hinaut pa.