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Inaugurating the Mission


Today let us do honor to Christ’s baptism and celebrate this feast in holiness. Be cleansed entirely and continue to be cleansed. Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of men, for whom his every word and every revelation exists.” ~ Saint Gregory Nazianzen

In a few short days, our country will witness the inauguration of a new president. As was the case four years ago, and four years prior to that, and four years prior to that many will be happy, ecstatic even, over this turn of events.

Others? ....Well ~ not so much.

Near the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what sort of government the conclave had devised; a monarchy or a republic. "A republic,“ Franklin famously replied, “if you can keep it." I invite you all to pray for our Nation during this time of vitriolic divisiveness and turmoil.

Today our Church celebrates a different type of inauguration, one far more profound, divine, and eternal in consequence then any temporary, worldly election. For whereas presidents and other elected officials place their hand on the Holy Bible in order to to be properly sworn in, our Church today celebrates a Feast Day which commemorates the central and starring figure of that very same Bible. Yes, today the Catholic Church puts the final bow on the Christmas Season with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It is here that we witness the inauguration of the mission, Jesus’ mission.

Yesterday’s Gospel, taken from the 3rd Chapter of John (22-30), serves as the proverbial passing of the baton, wherein John the Baptist declares “He (Jesus) must increase, I must decrease,” words that we can all learn from and strive to live by

In today’s passage (Mark 1:7-11), the Baptist proclaims that “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals,” he goes on to say, explaining that Jesus’ baptismal power is of the Holy Spirit, a teaching that was no doubt radical and even confusing for those who were on hand

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Why would Jesus even have a need to be baptized? He was, after all, of God and as such, sinless and pristine in both body and soul. We know that service and humility were the hallmarks of Jesus’ Earthly ministry (Philippians 2:8), but over the years, theologians have offered a different reason. Some believe that Jesus was baptized so as to sanctify the waters in which we would be baptized.

This “washing of the water” calls to mind the words of Isaiah (55:10-11) wherein the Lord proclaims “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Jesus as we know is the word of God made flesh.

Tomorrow’s Gospel (Mark 1:14-29) will feature Jesus’ first public sermon. Yes, as previously discussed, the great theodrama moves swiftly “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus will say to those in his midst. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In five weeks and two days, our priests will implore us to do the same while simultaneously rubbing ashen crosses upon our foreheads. This is our baptismal calling.

Our baptism, which took place in the very same waters that Jesus immersed himself in, inaugurates our mission as well. The initial words of Jesus’ first sermon are an invitation to a renewed spiritual awareness. Through repentance we are transformed. Through a life rooted in the Gospel, we assist in the transformation of others. Saint Vincent Ferrer once said that “Every baptized person should consider that it is in the womb of the Church where he is transformed from a child of Adam to a child of God.” Always remember who you are and who you are called to be: a baptized child of God in whom the world and all its depravity and sinfulness has no dominion over. We are not of this Kingdom; we are of God’s KingdI’m.

One Lord. One faith. One baptism.”
Ephesians 4:5

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