SERMON : If we do not stand for something we shall fall for anything

As we begin the New Year 2010 with all its expectations, the previous year still has lessons to teach us. We shall continue to have life’s “ups and downs”; like feelings of good and bad due to different reasons. Events in our life may take an unexplained turn for the worse even where success would seem assured. Some people would say that it is just part of life; that kind of fate or luck.

As we begin the New Year 2010 with all its expectations, the previous year still has lessons to teach us. We shall continue to have life’s “ups and downs”; like feelings of good and bad due to different reasons.

Events in our life may take an unexplained turn for the worse even where success would seem assured. Some people would say that it is just part of life; that kind of fate or luck.

But deep down there is always more than that especially when it comes to overcoming our ups and downs.

Then we know that there are always real reasons behind life’s seemingly chance setbacks, which may explain how and why such things happen to us and at times at the worst time possible!

In any case, in order to stably succeed in our activities throughout this New Year, and maintain our happiness despite the obstacles life may throw in our way, it might help to keep it in mind that the most important single factor in individual or community success is commitment.

In our daily language commitment means to show loyalty, duty or pledge to something or someone.

On a personal level, it may refer to an individual’s pledge or promise to oneself for personal growth. On a community level, it refers to observance of a set of values, principles or beliefs which define the uniqueness of the community or organization as principles which aim at having a common vision and purpose.

In most cases when we are committed, we have something to stand for, and as the old saying goes, “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

And time has proved this saying right both in easy and tough times. That is why the wise Epicurus said that a captain earns his reputation during the storms.

At the beginning of each year, the Church teaches us a lesson on commitment in the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. (Cfr. Mt. 3:15-22)  The evangelist tells us that as Jesus was about to begin his public ministry of teaching the people, the atmosphere did not seem right.

There were some ups and downs in his life. People were asking themselves so many questions about John the Baptist and Jesus.

The two were being confused in identity whereas John the Baptist had come to prepare the way for Jesus. When John wanted to clear the matter, some more confusion was inevitable as he insisted that he was baptizing with water, waiting for the one who is more powerful and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and whose thong of sandals John was not worthy to untie

This kind of explanation from John made the people wait for Jesus with the wrong idea of grandeur that was contrary to Jesus’ mission.

His was a modest and gentle mission by nature. The kind of justice he was about to teach was essentially a spiritual one. The transformation he had in mind was an inner one in the hearts of men which identified him as Servant of the Lord.

Contrary to what people had in mind, his Messiahship had nothing to do with a royal conquering Messiah. And when he talked of himself as the Servant who proclaims the good news and suffers for it, people would not grasp what it was all about!

There was a clear discrepancy between what people expected from Jesus’ mission and his real objective goal.

Jesus avoided the temptation of pleasing the people and stayed committed to his mission. And he did this first by going for the baptism of John Baptist.

Here he wanted to manifest himself as a committed Jew who obeyed the Law and the practices associated with good Jewish life.

At the same time, he wanted to manifest himself as God and with a specific mission that he was so committed to and ready to die for.

When the latter recognized Jesus, he insisted that it was he who should be baptized by Jesus. But he baptized him all the same because Jesus too insisted.

And as Jesus came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and (John) saw the Spirit of God descending like a Dove and alighting on Him. [Mt. 3:16]  And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

With this manifestation, Jesus continued to be committed in his mission as the Messiah of Israel and at the same time as the Son of God.”

Here Jesus teaches us a great lesson on personal and community commitment. In such tough times when different storms may hit us, commitment may be hard to exercise, but it will always ignite a proper action.

When we are committed to a certain cause it gives us a very clear purpose of life with its corresponding line of conduct which helps us not to lose sight of our vision despite the ups and downs of life.

That is why the best description of commitment is ‘persistence with a purpose’. When we have this kind of persistence, then we too can surely stand the test of commitment without much compromise.  

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