God calls the baptized to do good and heal the oppressed

God calls Jesus his beloved Son
The baptism of the Lord

On Monday we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. When Jesus rose from the water, “he saw the heavens … torn open.” The Holy Spirit descended upon him. And a voice from heaven proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mk 1: 10-11 (NABRE). Then Jesus “went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10: 38b (NABRE). Indeed, on Tuesday we hear of Jesus healing a man suffering under an unclean spirit. Mk 1: 23-25 (NABRE). God calls us to follow Jesus’s example, and to rise out of the baptismal waters to do good.

In baptism, God calls us to do good

Baptism incorporates us into the Church, “a house where God lives”. Christian Initiation, General Introduction ¶ 4. But not only where God lives; where human beings live as well. Pope John Paul II said that humans are “the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission”. He refers to humans “in the full truth of [our] existence, … personal being and … community and social being”. Redemptor hominis (RS) ¶ 14. Through the Church, the baptized “share in Christ’s triple mission, his triple office as priest, as prophet and as king”. This mission is to serve “the society and community of the People of God on earth,” a mission and service in which each one of us must share. RS ¶ 18.

Thus, baptism initiates us into both the institution and the mission of the Church. “[J]ustice and love are fulfilled only if each person … promotes and assists … in … bettering the conditions of human life.” Guadium et spes ¶ 30. In baptism, God is with us. Therefore, we should do good and heal all those who are oppressed by the devil.

We have a duty to participate in the life of society

Pope Paul VI tells us “[i]t is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustices, and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action.” Octogesima adveniens (OA) ¶ 48. Participation is our means to “contribute[ ] to the cultural, economic, political and social life of the civil community”. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church ¶ 189. It is one form of human dignity and freedom. OA ¶ 22.

These days, an important social issue demands our attention. That is the issue of migration. Last month, I wrote articles on migration and refugees. Tomorrow, January 7, is the beginning of National Migration Week. All of our families have a migrant past; some recent, some long ago. The U.S. bishops encourage us to learn, pray, and act in solidarity with other migrant families.


2 thoughts on “God calls the baptized to do good and heal the oppressed

  1. Defiance of immigration decisions is perhaps an opportunity to act on the words of Étienne de la Boétie (1549) in his Discours sur la servitude voluntaire:

    “To free oneself it is not necessary to use force against a tyrant. He falls as soon as the country is tired of him. The people who are being degraded and enslaved need but deny him any right. To be free only calls for the earnest to shake off the yoke. … Deny the tyrant your help, and like a colossus whose pedestal is pulled away, he will collapse and break into pieces.”

    1. Perhaps, but this presumes we currently live under a tyranny. Although there is much about the Trump presidency that disturbs me, I do not consider the U.S. government to be a tyranny. Therefore, the current situation calls for engagement, not withdrawal.

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