The new year is a time for resolutions, commitments to a new way of being in the world. Over the last few weeks, my social media has been full of posts in which friends share their commitments to exercising more, eating healthier, picking up a new hobby, or spending more time with family and less time at work. This Sunday we celebrated The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. As I reflected on this Feast and Sunday’s readings, I thought about my own baptism and the ways in which I struggle to live out that commitment to Christian discipleship. Baptism is itself a sort of resolution—a commitment to living differently in the world. In this Sunday’s readings and on this Feast Day, I found an opportunity and invitation to resolve to renew my baptismal vocation as priest, prophet, and leader. In other words, my promise to be a source of holiness, justice, and inspiration as a member of the body of Christ.
As I have gotten older, my relationship to the Church has gotten more complex, and I often struggle to locate my faith within the institutional Church. At the same time, my baptism reminds me that the Church is the people of God. I remember the youth minister who taught me that this is my Church too and helped me discover my vocation to ministry. By her care for each young person, she taught me that in the Gospel Jesus prioritized inclusion above all else. I recall the Jesuit I knew who called everyone “saint,” reminding each person of their intrinsic holiness. I am inspired by lay groups in my home state who tried to hold our diocese accountable in the wake of revelations of sexual abuse and financial mismanagement by our bishop. I think of the Catholic Workers I am blessed to know who live quiet lives of solidarity tending to the cries of the poor and creation. I am encouraged by the house church communities that helped me and others find camaraderie and a sense of Christ’s presence. Our vocation to be the Church happens in these ordinary acts of ministry and community. Through my griefs and in my joys, in my hopes and my struggles, these memories draw me back to God’s words in the Gospel, “my beloved…with you I am well pleased.” Indeed, the vocation to be priest, prophet, and leader is nothing more than to know ourselves as God’s beloved and to illuminate that belovedness for one another.
Ed Sloane is originally from West Virginia. He serves as the board chair for the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and received his Ph.D. in religious education and pastoral ministry at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. His writing focuses on approaches to education in faith through the lens of ecological justice and place-based learning. Ed is also a high school theology teacher.