Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which marks the end of the Christmas season. The theme of light endures, however, as we will soon celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 as well as the greatest light of all—the Resurrection at Easter.
The Christmas season that now ends recapitulates, as a bad memory, the figure of Herod, a most cruel king and tyrant who not only slaughtered the holy innocents but killed members of his own family. Violence is an integral part of the Christmas story.
So too violence marred our Old Year’s in the middle of the Christmas season as four persons were killed and several wounded in downtown Port of Spain shootouts. Several innocent people were shot, and one died.
This carnage reminds us the Light came into the world amidst darkness and the darkness endures. As spiritual writer Fr Ron Rolheiser notes: “The incarnation does not promise heaven on earth. It promises heaven in heaven. Here, on earth, it promises us something else—God’s presence in our lives.” The violence does not take away the presence of God; it just masks it.
Amidst the violence, we must commit to higher values—communication over the cold shoulder; patience over hostility; anger management over rage; just relationships over self-interest and exploitation; and often, pain of children over pain of spouses.
If we teach our children to respond to anger with more anger, then we will have more of that random and reckless shooting of Old Year’s. We need to teach our children the importance of ‘time-out’. If parents practise it, children will emulate.
As the Church meditates on the flowing waters of the Jordan in which Jesus was baptised, we must let that water speak to us.
Water has a dual symbolism—negative and positive. Negative—the waters of life can engulf us, drown us, destroy us. Positive—the waters of life can cleanse us, heal us, refresh us. It all depends on how we respond.
The smaller part of life is the bad things that happen to us; the larger part of life is how we respond to these adversities. The Christian way of responding to adversity is what we call ‘grace’, which is the very life of Jesus in us. We must allow ourselves to be washed by grace.
There is need for a national washing as well. We must wash away the numbness to violence, the buried griefs and absence of closure. We must wash away our inability to grieve in the face of such widespread violence, and remember the fallen sons and daughters, innocent and guilty, many of them victims of educational failure and consequent unemployability. We need to cleanse the nation of the daily injustices that over time harden the soul.
With education as a key constructive tool, we must create in the national culture “step by step, a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance” (World Day of Peace Message, 2020).