Fifty-seven years ago, on the Feast of St. Bruno, (founder of the Carthusians) I was offered by my family into another, the family of Christ. October 6th, 1957 I was baptized and from that time forward, whether I knew it or not I was now surrounded by the eternal family of God. Not that God’s family didn’t care for me prior, they did – but on that day I became a member. Today’s Gospel gives us a powerful vision of what happened on that day, for what happened to Jesus happened to each of us. ‘And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”’ Not that we saw the physical manifestation of the sky opening and the Holy Spirit descending but it happen that way nonetheless. God, and along with Him His family, rejoiced as I became a member.
But in addition, God didn’t just take notice of me at my baptism; He has forever known and loved me, or as Pope Francis puts it: ‘we were personally chosen even before the creation of the world…’ Wow! I was important prior to the creation of the world. The first line of Genesis could be rewritten: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, [but before that He chose me]’
And so with each of you.
This inclusion into the Family of God should bring great joy and peace. Knowing that we are never alone and that our brothers and sisters are watching out for us is a great blessing. It should, but it doesn’t always; life and our shortcomings have a way of clouding our vision to what is really important – we need reminders.
So, here we are on the last day of the Season of Christmas, it winds down after Vespers; and how does Holy Mother Church finish the season of the Nativity of the Lord? With a celebration about being part of Christ’s family. For me this Feast of the Baptism of Lord is a perfect closing to Christmas; it takes all that we have celebrated and reflected on and launches us into the rest of the year by reminding us that we are not alone – we belong. Not only did Christ come down to us and enter our existence within a family; but He allows us to become part of His eternal family.
St. Paul, in his beautiful opening to his letter to the Ephesians puts it poetically: ‘He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.’
God gives great Christmas gifts!