Baptism of the Lord 2016

Published: January 10, 2016

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Joseph Church in Center Ridge and St. Theresa Church in Little Rock on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016.

Bishop Taylor

Each of us has a calling in life and it's up to us to discover what that calling is. A calling is not the same thing as a career. A career is something we choose; a calling is something God chooses for us. We choose our careers by looking at our talents and interests and then figure out which of these we could use to earn a living.

What do you like so well that you could do it for a lifetime and get people to pay you for it? But once you know your talents and interests, the bigger question is to discover your calling in life, to choose the path God has picked out for you. A calling is when we live for something bigger than ourself and our own personal advancement.

Callings can be full time (a career path) or part time (an after-work activity; music ministry is a calling, for instance). But in both cases they are chosen for more than just human reasons, beyond the values and rewards of this present world. And even when the calling is a part-time activity, if it's truly a calling, you find yourself thinking about it all the time.

A calling is not the same thing as a career. A career is something we choose; a calling is something God chooses for us.

Any kind of employment or activity can be a calling if it's what God is calling you to. You can choose a career by yourself, but to have a calling, you have to listen for the voice of God, the one who calls ... and then respond.

Today is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the event that began Jesus' public ministry. It was the start of his career as teacher and healer and redeemer — his true calling in life. In order to respond to this calling, Jesus had to make a mid-life career change. He left his career in carpentry to pursue his true vocation in life: to announce and establish the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

Not everyone understood: to leave a good job to pursue this uncertain and dangerous future? Even some of his own family thought he was crazy! In today's Gospel, we have Jesus' prefigurement at the time of his calling, of four of our sacraments. He was baptized by John (baptism) for the forgiveness of sins (even though he didn't have any — reconciliation).

The Holy Spirit descended on him (confirmation) and God's voice from heaven declared: "You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests" (ordination). Our second reading from the Acts of the Apostles says: "God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil, and God was with him." God called and Jesus responded.

Have you discovered your true calling in life? Jesus was 30 when he had this experience at the Jordan River that changed his life completely, and through him, all of human history. It's not written that God's call comes only when we're in 12th grade, or before we have to choose a major in college. Many of us reach midlife before life's difficulties have stretched us enough and humbled us enough to hear God's voice, God's call.

Read the lives of the saints: some knew their calling early on, but others were much older than you might think and most were not priests and nuns. Some hear an initial call and then later, a subsequent call within the call. Mother Teresa first heard God's call to become a nun in a teaching order, which brought her to India. Only when she reached midlife did she hear her call within the call, to give her life in service to the poor and suffering on the streets of Calcutta.

Do you remember why God made us? "To know him, love him and serve him in this life, and to be happy with him forever in the next!" Well then each of us needs to ask God in prayer just exactly how he wants us to serve him in this life. God may be calling some of you to serve him as a priest or nun; and others of you to serve him as a permanent deacon or a committed lay catechist.

Others of you are called to evangelize the marketplace or raise children in the Catholic faith. You can come to know God's will for your life if you'll ask him persistently in prayer and then listen for his response, which will gradually become clear to you if you just keep listening.

Prayer is the key to hearing your call and to opening your heart to do God's will. Through prayer, you can come to know God's will and then he will give you all the grace you need to respond.