Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and with that celebration, we draw our Christmas season to a close. Today the statues to our nativity scene go back into storage, along with the trees, the lights and the various other Christmas decorations. While the Christmas season is formally coming to its close, the work of Christmas is only just beginning.
When I was ordained a priest, I celebrated my first Mass of Thanksgiving the day after my ordination, then I celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in a couple of different places. There was a social gathering that followed each Mass. I enjoyed each celebration and each was special, celebrating with various different groups of people that walked with me as I journeyed to the priesthood. It was overwhelming to walk into rooms and have people clap. At the end of it all I was tired of having people clap when I walked into a room and I was ready to begin the work of my first assignment. I was ready to put the celebration aside and dive into the beginning of my priestly ministry.
Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus’s baptism was not an end but a beginning. It is after Jesus’s baptism that we read in the Gospels that Jesus begins his public ministry. He begins to proclaim the kingdom of God, he drives out demons and heals people. For us also, when we were baptized it was not the end of our relationship with our God but the beginning.
I once heard it said that after the ceremony of baptism–after the water has been poured, after we have been dried off, the baptismal garment has been put on and then taken off and put into storage, and the candle a has been lit, extinguished, put back into its box—after all that, the work of baptism has only just begun. Baptism is a once-in-a-lifetime event, often celebrated with a party. It is a celebration that really about a beginning it is not an end. It is about living a way of life that lasts a life time.
In our Scriptures today, we hear that when Jesus was baptized that heaven was open, the Spirit descended like a dove upon him, and a voice came from the heavens saying “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Many of us were baptized when we were infants and we do not remember the event of our baptism. I like to think that when each one of was baptized heaven was opened, the Spirit descended upon us and voice said to each us “You are my beloved Son, you are my beloved daughter, you are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.”
As we journey in our life, we need to be reminded from time to time that we are a beloved child of God. As we hear our God speak these words to Jesus today, may we also hear these words spoken to us as well: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.”
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Matthew Keller, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Downtown Dayton Catholic Parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.