The Christmas season concludes today with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. As narrated in today’s Gospel, God the Father himself attests that he whose birth we have been celebrating is in fact God the Son become man. We have heard this truth announced by angels to shepherds, signified to the Magi by a star and heralded by John the Baptist. Jesus’ baptism was to mark the beginning of his public ministry. Incorporated into Christ and into the Church through our baptism, we too are God’s beloved and are commissioned to proclaim the Good News with our lives.
St. Hippolytus, a third-century priest and martyr, reflects with amazement on the fact that Jesus should be baptized by John the Baptist. At the same time he does not want us to miss the significance of our baptism. Here are some excerpts of his sermon on the Epiphany.
The Father of immortality sent his immortal Son and Word into the world; he came to us men to cleanse us with water and the Spirit.…Let peoples of every nation come and receive the immortality that flows from baptism. This is the water that is linked to the Spirit, the water that irrigates Paradise…this is the water by which a man receives new birth and life, the water in which even Christ was baptized, the water into which the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.…Whoever goes down into these waters of rebirth with faith renounces the devil and pledges himself to Christ. He repudiates the enemy and confesses that Christ is God, throws off his servitude, and is raised to filial status. He comes up from baptism resplendent as the sun, radiant in his purity, but above all, he comes as a son of God, and a coheir with Christ.
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on Friday, January 18, and ends next Friday, January 25, the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. This year’s theme is taken from Deuteronomy 16:20, “Justice, Only Justice, You Shall Pursue.” Again this year we pray that the scandal of a divided Christendom may be overcome, a stated priority for Pope Francis.
Father Thomas Orians, SA, Associate Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute, noted:
Every year, Christians across the world gather in prayer for growth in unity. We do this in a world where corruption, greed and injustice bring about inequality and division. We are called together to form a united witness for justice and for Christian Unity that becomes a means of Christ’s healing grace for the brokenness of the world. Only by heeding Jesus’s prayer “that they all may be one” can we witness to living unity in diversity.
Pray the Rosary this week for the unity of Christians, for an end to legalized abortion and the many other crimes against human life and dignity and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.