Thanks be to God, we had a beautiful celebration of the Birth of Christ at Assumption. What an incredible blessing it was to be here for my first Christmas as a pastor. The liturgies were top-rate, thanks to all of our ministers and choir members. And, how exquisite does the decorated church look?! I think that’s the Christmas card for the parish next year; and maybe, for some of you. Hope you enjoyed the crèche, poinsettias, Christmas trees, lights, garland, and candles…and took a picture of it all! They will be taken down this week because the Christmas season ends with today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Why liturgically do we make such a big jump in the life of Jesus from the Epiphany at His birth to His Baptism as an adult on consecutive Sundays? The Navarre Bible commentary provides the following answer which gives tremendous insight into the mind of the Church for these Sundays in January:
In its liturgy the Church remembers the first three solemn manifestations of Christ’s divinity:
The adoration of the Magi (Mt 2:11)
The baptism of Jesus (Lk 3:21-22)
The first miracle our Lord worked, at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:11).
In the adoration of the Magi God revealed the divinity of Jesus by means of the star. At his baptism the voice of God the Father, coming “from heaven”, reveals to John the Baptist and to the Jewish people – and thereby to all men – this profound mystery of Christ’s divinity. At the wedding at Cana, Jesus “manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn 2:11).
So, the Church is focusing last Sunday (Epiphany), today (Baptism of the Lord), and next Sunday (wedding feast at Cana) on the divinity of Christ being revealed in these three events. It’s very clear in today’s Gospel that the Father revealed that Jesus is His Son: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).
We might take for granted the divine nature of Christ. But, this feast – along with the other two – highlights not only the first manifestations of Christ’s divinity, but it helps us reflect more deeply on a divine person taking on a human nature. “Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man” (St. Proclus of Constantinople, bishop). God sanctified by the ministry of man!
The last line of that quote should get us thinking, again, about the incredible reality of the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. But, it also leads us to ponder why Christ was baptized in the first place. In his human nature, he was “sanctified by the ministry of man”, no doubt. John’s baptism brought sanctification to the body and pointed to Christian baptism which sanctifies the soul. “I baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”.
Each of us who have followed Christ’s lead and have been baptized with the Holy Spirit has also had the Father say the same words about us: “you are my beloved (child); with you I am well pleased”.
–Sincerely in Christ