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Service Above Self
SERVICE ABOVE SELF 
The Baptism of Jesus
Today, January 10, 2021, the Catholic church commemorates the baptism of Jesus. (Mark 1:7-11) Usually, it is a time to ponder the important vocation that persons initiated into the Christian tradition need to carry out in the world.
However, we cannot focus on this sacrament without asking ourselves some serious questions about who we are as people of God and what our role is in the public sphere.
Donald Trump clearly instigated the hostile march to the Capitol. Populist lawmakers who mindlessly continue to support him are complicit in his seditious actions. This latest odious tactic of the president and his legions did not develop overnight. His unhinged behavior has been well known for a long time.
The third from the last lines in the Christian bible warns against preaching falsehoods (Rev 22:19). During the last five years current and factual news in the United States have been skewed by outright lies, denials, and trumped up fictions fueled by the president and spewed by dishonest politicians, ratings hungry media personalities and, yes, ordinary citizens.
The climate was ripe for someone to rise up in 2016 promising to make a republic, broken apart by racism, poverty and greed, great again. Trump ironically stymied his own mission. Sadly a very large number of people, for some unthinkable reason, remains lured into the delusional world of the outgoing president. Vast numbers of well intentioned citizens remain loyal to a demagogue who despised the very people he needed to vote for him, the man who lied to them for five years.
On January 6, 2021, the feast of the Epiphany, reality set in when a mob of White extremists invaded the Capitol, our nation’s civic temple. Imagine the deaths, injuries and arrests that would have taken place if those who stormed into our sacred precinct were people of color, Black people? While thousands were beaten and arrested at Black Lives Matter rallies, not even a dozen (at this writing) were taken into custody during their siege on the Capitol.
Public buildings, aside from being functional, are symbolic expressions of principle, character, and identity. The treasonous invasion of the Capitol was an attack on the foundations this country was built upon. We, the citizens of this country, like it or not, are also responsible for the state this nation is in.
San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy said, "Today's events show the immensely perilous pathway of division and polarization that our country has embarked upon in these past four years.” Baptized persons, to be true to our calling, must step up.
How can Christians regain composure and rally together to repair this planet, the country, the church? Some bishops have publicly denounced the attack on the Capitol and the president’s actions. They are calling for prayer but that is not enough. Catholics, and Christians in general, are hardly united in searching for a common ground in civic, ecclesial and moral matters. For example, fifty percent of Catholics in the USA voted for Trump.
The teachings of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council refer to the church as “a sacrament of unity.”  The rituals of baptism, anointing and eucharist should celebrate and affirm this coalition. These ceremonies are designed to initiate new members willing to proclaim the social justice agenda started by Jesus of Nazareth. Ironically what is suppose to unite the church does not.
Charles C. Camosy  wrote: “Cleavage between Catholics of differing political stripes still exists, but it has been complicated by America's political realignment ….” Of course, membership in a religion does not require that every one must agree on every socio-political-ethical issue.
However, one hopes that the gospels proclaimed every single day should have some effect on moral instincts, that in turn, will guide the decisions people make in their lives and for the common good.
Those of us who are baptized need to stop, be still for a moment, take a deep breath and figure out exactly what is it that we are doing that will make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. Sitting back and doing nothing is not an option. Mandated by our baptisms we have to find ways to act.
Liturgical scholar Melinda Quivik  wrote, “Baptism opens our hearts and our minds to becoming instruments that bring unity and peace to our neighbors.” Quivik’s words are similar to today’s passage from Isaiah’s servant song (42:1-4, 6-7) “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of those who cannot see, to bring out prisoners from confinement and dark cells.”
In his baptism Jesus of Nazareth was energized by a new Spirit to practice “service above self,” to advance the kingdom of God on earth. According to the text, God was pleased with him. Baptized persons embody that same Spirit, and are summoned to do good for others, to speak the truth always, and to show thanks for the beauty that surrounds them with an eagerness to share that grace with others so that they, too, can live freely, equally and with a peace of mind.
Heather Cox Richardson, law professor at Boston College, wrote last week: “Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have granted your approval to the idea of rulers and servants. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in one of the lesser groups.”
We cannot allow a few powerful, wealthy people and corporate monopolies to run this country by creating agendas that suit their own personal or company ambitions. Donald Trump is still a dangerous person. Right now, or as soon as possible, he should be brought to justice for his mutinous behavior and countless other actions that have, over the past four years, jeopardized national security as well as the physical and mental health of this nation.
If there is any significance to the act of Christian baptism at this moment of history it is to birth disciples of Christ. For those of us already baptized we need to renew our promises to restore the well being of all religious persuasions and the nation at large. 
1. “Service Above Self” is the motto of the Rotary Club. It refers to unselfish community oriented service.
2. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 26.
3. Associate Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University in New York City.
4. Quivik is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN,
5. By the way, do you know the date of your baptism?
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