The Baptism of the Lord
Today’s celebration of the Lord’s Baptism concludes the Christmas season for us in a bit of a “summary” of what we have celebrated in the seasons of Advent and Christmas. We hear echoes of Advent in the first reading: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low…” (Isaiah 40:3-4). We speak of John the Baptist as we recall his role in pointing out Jesus as he came to be baptized. Confusing as it might be to think of why Jesus would need baptism, still, we are drawn close to him by sharing in the experience of baptism. Jesus makes the waters of baptism holy by his own immersion in the Jordan.
Saint Paul reminds us of the gift of Jesus’ birth and his appearance as he began his public ministry: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires…” (Titus 2:11). We heard this same reading on Christmas, and it emphasizes that it is not enough that Jesus became human, but that he came to us for a reason. He comes to bring about some change in us, and we have to respond to his presence in order for his Birth to mean something to us. That takes work on our part… the constant work of devotion (in our prayer) and love (in our charity and service). After his baptism, Jesus set out on a relentless mission to preach, to heal, and to save. The same pattern is set in our lives, even though we might not always feel the urgency of such relentlessness. Let us pray for the strength to persevere in our devotion and our love.
This Sunday evening the priests of the Archdiocese will gather with Archbishop Lori for our annual Christmas celebration, but this year it is taking on a more prayerful format. Normally we simply gather on Epiphany for a social, but as the event got rescheduled so that he could participate in the retreat with the Bishops of the United States, he suggested that we gather for prayer. We will assemble at the Cathedral for evening prayer and to venerate the relic of St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests. The heart of St. John has been “on tour” throughout the United States for several months, and this Sunday (January 13) it will be at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen for public veneration from 8 am to 4 pm. If you are able, I invite you to make a visit this weekend to pray for the purification and renewal of the priesthood in the Church. Fr. John and I are grateful for the encouragement and prayerful support you offer to us!