Puzzling: Baptism of the Lord

In this way we know that we love the children of God

when we love God and obey his commandments.

For the love of God is this,

that we keep his commandments.

And his commandments are not burdensome,

for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  – 1Jn 5:2-4

When I dump out the 500 pieces of a new puzzle, the colors and shapes all jumbled together. Gradually, as I work, the nuances of color, perspective, and texture become more distinct. I enjoy the thrill of seeing chaos take shape. Once I start a puzzle, I cannot rest until I finish it. Unfortunately I don’t get much time to puzzle these days; inevitably pieces get lost or chewed up (by the dog or baby). 

On our Baptism, God does not just give us the first piece of sacramental grace. In Baptism, we receive the entire gift of salvation. Our original sin is cleansed and we are united completely with the community of faith. All the pieces are given to us, but the picture those pieces will form is still fragmented. Whether we are baptized as children or through the RCIA process, God comes more than halfway to meet us and journey with us through the rest of our lives. Baptism is not the first marker in a game of BINGO; we don’t need to move across the board collecting the markers in a row. 

God has already gifted us everything we need. Yet, I exert unnecessary energy trying to make all the pieces of my life’s puzzle fit together perfectly. I cram a piece that is too big in where it does not belong (and then later find myself undoing that whole section in order to start over). I despair as I look at the large gaps. I focus on that one weird misshapen piece that does not seem to fit anywhere. 

I forget that salvation has already been offered fully and completely. So many of us are filled with anxiety about our shortcomings and failures. We grow frustrated at the “Groundhog Day” feel to our confessions, as we struggle with the same vices over and over again.  I know I spend a lot of time questioning how God plans to fit all these pieces of my life and who I am together into anything meaningful.

In the wisdom of the Church, we have a practice of renewing our baptismal promises at various points throughout the liturgical year. (In normal times) we bless ourselves with the water of our Baptism as we enter and leave Church buildings. Like my love of puzzles was passed on to me and my siblings by our mom and aunt, the Church passes these rituals on to us because we realize that we need these reinforcements. The false spirit that pursued Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism tempts us that our pieces can’t be found, or that the baby-chewed piece has ruined it, rather than made it more human and lovely.

Each morning when we wake up, God offers the chance to live into the promises of our baptism in completely new ways: in our work, in our family life, and in the community around us.  The pieces shift, the colors become more distinct, the image reveals itself. 

Can I trust that whatever God is building in me, will be beautiful?

Published by jencoito

Jen Coito is a California native with diverse experience in parish, academic, and national ministry settings. She has a Masters in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University. She worked for the California Province of Jesuits for seven years promoting Christian Life Community on university campuses and other diverse ethnic settings. Jen has collaborated on the creation of formation materials, discernment tools, and small group processes that are being used around the country in Vietnamese, Korean, Spanish, and English. In 2013, Jen and Jesuit priest Fr. Tri Dinh co-founded Christus Ministries out of a desire to engage local young adults and form young-adult friendly parishes. Jen works for the Sisters of Notre Dame in California as the Associate Director of Mission Advancement. Jen, Jason, and their three children live in Southern California. You can read more of Jen's writings at www.jencoito.com.

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