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Posted August 27, 2007

Book: So We Do Not Lose Heart: Biblical Wisdom For All Our Days
Author: Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Archabbey Publications, Latrobe, PA, 2007. Pp. 272

An Excerpt from the Preface:

The cover of this book [children playing in a cemetery] has a symbolic as well as an historical meaning. Historically, it is a photograph of five of my grandnieces and grandnephews who are gathered in the cemetery of Saint Vincent Archabbey and Parish. They are children of my nephew Pat, and his wife, Virginia, ranging in age from two to twelve. Their names are, from left to right, Adelaide, Nicholas, Carolyn, Benjamin and Stephen. They are typical children who are full of life and who do not at all feel threatened by the existence of cemeteries.

Symbolically, these children represent the ultimate victory of life in a society where death is feared and where the final victory of life seems to be little more than a fanciful dream. By contrast, these children are not at all concerned about the implication of the crosses and the tombstones in the cemetery where they are seated. In that respect, they are unwitting models for all of us who dare to dream of unending life through our union with Christ.

An Excerpt from the Book:

We Are God’s Beloved Children

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11).

The evangelist is not interested in giving us th exact date of the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. The phrase, “in those days,” is not very helpful to an historian. But we must remember that the gospel writer is not telling us about someone, like Napoleon or George Washington, who was perhaps very influential within the limits of human history. Rather, we are being introduced to a Savior who came to show people of all times and places how to live this earthly life in a way that will lead to eternal happiness. In that light, the exact date of the beginning of his ministry is almost irrelevant.

The account of the actual baptism is very brief. In fact, it comprises no more than one verse (see above). The interpretation of Jesus’ baptism comes when we are told what happened after the actual baptism. For it is only when Jesus comes up out of the water that he sees the heavens “torn apart.” This very strong statement suggests that God has been waiting for this special moment when Jesus will be standing with Israel pleading for the beginning of God’s dramatic intervention to restore the fortunes of his chosen people. Thus, the heavens are being torn apart from God’s side. The people who accepted the baptism of John were declaring their readiness for God’s coming; now God in turn declares his readiness to act in their behalf. The rending of the heavens tells us how eager God is to respond to the presence of Jesus.

The presence then of the Holy Spirit, who appears in the form of a dove, tells us about the nature of God’s imminent activity in human history. We recall that the Spirit hovered over the waters in the Genesis story of creation (1:1). And the dove that brought back the olive branch to Noah (Gen. 8:11) was another symbol of a new world, a new creation. In the context of the baptism of Jesus, this means that something radically new is about to happen. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Finally, the words from heaven tell about the nature of his new creation. It will come about through an influx of divine love in the person of Jesus such as no one could have dreamed possible. The infinite love of God the Father will henceforth be concentrated in God’s incarnate Son and through him, will radiate to the whole world in a way that has the potential to transform everything. If that has not happened to date, it can only be that we human beings have not allowed this love to pass through us to touch and renew the world.

It is important to note that the baptismal experience of Jesus was not just a single episode in his life. Rather, it is clear that he heard those liberating and energizing words of his Father all through his ministry when he withdrew from his disciples to pray alone in some deserted place. He heard these comforting words most especially during his ordeal in the garden of Gethsemane.

This story of the baptism of Jesus is not meant for him alone. When we are baptized, we too hear the loving voice of God, saying, “You are my beloved child; I love you more than you will ever know.” And, just as in the case of Jesus, these liberating words of love are being spoken to us every minute of every day in our lives! Too often, however, we are not listening.

To grow old gracefully, we must begin as soon as possible to listen in quiet prayer for these words of God, so that we too, like Jesus, may be strengthened every day to make the journey of life with him. In the leisure that comes with old age, it is so important that we take time to pray, to entertain the presence of God and to listen every day for these most important words in our lives: “You are my beloved child; I love you very much.”

God will speak these words to our hearts and in a thousand quiet ways he will embrace us with his strength. As a consequence, we will be less impatient, more trusting and more peaceful. We will be able to maintain hope in the most distressing moments. And we will be comforted in our own Gethsemane as we await the victory of resurrection and glory. God usually speaks to us in whispers, but there is indomitable power in his words. Let us be sure to listen every day to his life-giving voice of God.

Table of Content

Examples of the 83 short reflections on passages of Scripture that address the perennial human problem of mortality

God smiles on us

The Lord is our faithful shephed

Finding our true home with Jesus

Let us love one another

Walking in the newness of life

Allowing God’s way to be mysterious

Living the meaning of the Eucharist

So we do not lose heart