Out of the Hidden Life – The Baptism of the Lord
I’m accompanying someone through the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life. I have offered that many times, but I think that this is the first time during which I am working with the person while he has been preparing for entry into the Church through baptism and confirmation. He was baptized towards the end of Advent, after a few COVID-related delays.
Hearing of his experience has been a source of consolation. I’ve always had some envy of those who were baptized as mature young people and adults. I’m always curious to hear the story of how people chose to be baptized and enter the Church.
My experience is that people who had to make a decision to go through Christian initiation are often more articulate about what the Christian faith means to them, and why they chose it. They likely have had an interesting journey toward conversion.
Like many of us, I was a cradle Catholic. There are many gifts in that. You grow into an understanding of your faith by osmosis, in an organic matter. Immediate and extended family often plays a role. I recall how important my grandmother’s presence was at the family Rosary.
So many neighbours and classmates play an influential role, especially if you grow up in a Catholic milieu. There are many things, experiences, traditions and habits that can be taken for granted. And you can relate to other people who’ve always been Catholic. Of course, many of us rebel – perhaps temporarily – at some point, seeing our being Catholic as something that was chosen for us.
And not even being chosen, but rather being taken for granted. It’s mainly because of my adolescent rebellion that I recognized the value of my Christian faith. In a sense, I was choosing it for myself.
My experience is that many of us who were born and raised in the Church often have to let go of what we have blindly appropriated, and learn it anew. I remember my experience of serving as Director of Novices.
As a team, we recognized that some of the novices may have been cradle Catholics, but they had lived most of their lives in family and social situations that meant that they were missing some significant terminology, understandings, and so on. With the help of the novices, we developed an in-house course that we jokingly called, Rite of Christian Initiation for Jesuit Novices.
Jesus received his baptism as an adult. We are not told much about his life before his public ministry. St Ignatius includes in his Spiritual Exercises the opportunity for people to pray on the Hidden Life of Jesus.
He includes prayer on the life of Christ from the age of twelve to thirty. Ignatius bases this on Luke’s point that Jesus advanced in wisdom, age, and grace. Jesus’ transition from the hidden life is his baptism in the Jordan by John.
My experience of accompanying people through the Exercises is that their contemplation on the unspecified events of ages twelve to thirty in Jesus’ life can be invaluable for people who are seeking to grow in more intimate knowledge of Jesus.
Many people find themselves reflecting back on their own hidden life and experiencing a closer kinship with Jesus. In other words, they allow themselves to advance in wisdom, age, and grace along with Jesus.
Let’s take time today to consider how we respond when we see someone being baptized today.