PRAYER – BAPTISM OF CHRIST January 13, 2013 Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
LUKE 3:15-16, 21-22 – BAPTISM OF CHRIST
January 13, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
As the Pilgrims were leaving from Delphshaven in Holland, they gathered at the river wharf where they spent a day in prayer. Their leader took a passage from the Old Testament scripture, beseeching that they might “seek from [You, God,] a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21). When the tide demanded that finally they depart, they fell on their knees and with watery cheeks concluded their day of prayer with a final address to God, and then left their fellows to board the ship Speedwell, and finally set sail. (Cf. Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, Samuel Eliot Morrison, ed.). These Christians center their lives on prayer; they establish a colony at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and eventually shape our country.
This passage is similar to the description of St. Paul taking leave from the Ephesians. “When [Paul] had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship” (Acts of Apostles 20:36-38). With this early Christian community, prayer centers the leave-taking.
Many families pray before eating dinner; with the family gathered, we find this moment opportune. While realizing that many people have neither rice nor potatoes, neither chicken nor ham, neither salad nor dessert nor bread of any kind, in prayer we recognize that our food ultimately comes from a provident God.
Saint Luke repeatedly urges prayer. He does not hesitate to insist in diverse ways on the need of prayer in Christian life and on its varied forms and occasions. It is a characteristic of Christian life.
At the beginning of Christ’s public life, we see that at the Jordan River the Baptist bows to Jesus’ insistence that Jesus be baptized. Today’s scripture describes that scene.
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).
At the major episodes in Jesus’ ministry, His prayer occurs either before or during these events.
Now during those days, [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostle… (Lk.6:12-13).
Also at the transfiguration we see Jesus praying.
Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him… (Luke 9:28-30)
And at the Last Supper Jesus prays (Luke 22:32), and at His final night on the Mount of Olives Jesus prays.
He came out [from the Last Supper] and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” The he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down and prayed (Luke 22:39-41).
Of further interest, we note that Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives “as usual.” That final night of Christ’s life was not His first time of prayer; Jesus had often found the olive grove a congenial spot at which to visit with God.
And we read of how Jesus prayed and about what Jesus prayed. Jesus thanks His heavenly Father for what has been revealed to children about himself and revealed about his filial relation to the Father, something kept hidden from the wise and the learned (Luke 10:21-23). In quite a different situation, Jesus prays, “Please, Father, take this cup away from me; yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Here, the prayer of supplication that Jesus utters—to escape the ordeal that awaited him—ends in submission to the Father. Thus Jesus prayed both in thanksgiving and in supplication.
To be a Christian is to pray. A story goes the rounds that in a dry county in Arkansas, a businessman erected a building that he turned into a tavern. Christians from a fundamentalist Church held a meeting to pray for God’s intervention. Lighting struck the bar, and it burned to the ground. The bar owner sued the church, claiming that the prayers were responsible for the fire. The Church’s attorney denied that the prayer vigil had anything to do with the lightning strike or the fire. The presiding judge made this declaration: “The tavern owner believes in the power of prayer, but the Christians do not so believe.”
I have also heard that the famous author, Robert Louis Stevenson, when quite young, told his mother that everyone needs prayer. He said to her: “You cannot be good without praying.” She was taken aback with such talk from her youngest boy. So the mother asked the lad: “Just how do you know all that?” “Well,” he answered, “I have tried it.”
The gospel shows that Jesus often prayed. Scripture and the Church insist on the need of prayer. Just as you and I need air and water for human life, so we also need to pray in order to live as Christians. In our Prayer of the Faithful, we cite various needs; these become prayerful when “We pray to the Lord.” Amen!!!