My dear parishioners and friends of our parish community: Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
When we arrive at the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, our society has long since moved on from Christmas, but for Catholics, this celebration marks the day when we officially end the Christmas season and begin to look forward to the brief period of “Ordinary Time” before Lent. This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord replaces the First Sunday of Ordinary Time. Yet Christmas never really ends.
Over 20 years ago when I was a seminarian preparing for priestly ordination and studying the Liturgical Year, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in the United States wrote the following: “The Baptism of the Lord does not conclude Christmas by putting it away until next year. The evangelist places the Baptism of Jesus as the start of his public ministry, with the details manifesting his identity.
Thus Christmas ends with the scene set for the retelling of Jesus’ life (Study text 9, p. 45). ” St. Mark uses the revelation of God (called a theophany) that Jesus saw to reveal his identity in four ways: (1) that the “heavens being torn open”; (2) the “Holy Spirit descending upon Him”; (3) the “dove” resting above Jesus; (4) “a voice came from heaven.” Put together, these four elements show that Jesus is, for St. Mark the Evangelist, the Son of God, the Suffering Servant in whom the Holy Spirit Dwells and in whom a new age has dawned.
On this traditional third “manifestation” Feast, Christmas and Epiphany being the other two, the revelation of Jesus’ identity in His Baptism provides us with a sense of our Christian identity as well. Yet, St. Mark does not come right out and tell us who Jesus is. By having only Jesus see the vision of God, St. Mark is able to keep his Jesus’ identity hidden.
The statement from the voice reveals Jesus’ identity as the beloved Son of God and attest to His intimate relationship with the Father. Through our own Baptism, we too are claimed by God as His beloved sons and daughters and are sent forth to begin our public ministry in the Holy Name of Jesus and the Church.
Let today’s Gospel and this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord serve as a vivid reminder of our own baptism and our election by God to manifest Christ in all we do. Even though the Christmas season ends today, in reality, Christmas will never end. In Christ, all our days are “merry and bright!”
Blessings today and throughout A.D. 2009!
The Baptism of Christ – Jesus of Nazareth