Closing of Christmastide is today. Boy, has he grown, last week he was a toddler and this week he is 30 years old. Don’t worry on February 2nd he will be 12 years old. This seemingly confusing liturgical year timeline isn’t confusing at all. It is not meant to be an historical timeline; it is meant to reveal to each of us Jesus Chris. Saint Maximus of Turin wrote in explanation:

Reason demands that this feast of the Lord’s baptism which I think could be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Lord’s birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events. At Christmas he was born a man’ today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from the Virgin, today he is born in mystery. When he was born a man his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when He says: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.[1]

Today, also is the start of Jesus’ public ministry. Today, Jesus starts His journey towards His crucifixion – from the river to cross. We start our journey with Him. But what is our goal? Well of course the goal is heaven, spending eternity with our God. The bible states what eternity is: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.[2]

And to get there, to be with Jesus in heaven requires us to journey as Jesus did. Today’s gospel[3] proclaims to us. ‘In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 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.” [4]As with Jesus so with us. We desire that God is ‘well pleased[5] with each of us.

In Matthew we see that this desire, this hunger for a ‘healing’ was practically universal. ‘And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.[6] The people desired to be whole and they knew they weren’t, there was an emptiness that they couldn’t get rid of. When the John the Baptist came they went to him to see and maybe succeed in relieving this loneliness this emptiness.

John tells them it isn’t Him but the one who comes after. ‘And he preached, saying, ‘“After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”[7] We hear at the start of today’s Gospel. And Jesus arrives, He participates, and He elevates the whole ritual. People see and hear the Holy Trinity – they are aware; they have an epiphany of what God has in store for them and what they hunger for ‘with thee I am well pleased’[8]

But, now the question arises: how do I please our Heavenly Father? It is to the second reading that we look to find this answer. ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.[9] We please God by living the life that we are called to by Him, our creator. We embrace the Father and all that entails.

Brothers and sisters, it is imperative that as children of God we come to grips with both the goal of our baptism and the obligation it calls us to. In this past year we have witnessed horrible things here in our country. People of differing opinions have shown what happens when we push God aside and we ignore our baptismal gift. We have seen citizens turn to violence because they feel trapped and they can’t recognize the divine within each of us. We have seen what the world can be if we don’t look up. We are stubborn people; after the horrors of the twentieth century we seemingly haven’t learned anything. Technology and science have bounded forward but left morality and love behind. When God is ignored man fills the void and what happens is anything but human. Lets embrace our baptism, let’s strive to hear God speak of us: with thee I am well pleased.[10]

[1] Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours Friday after Epiphany
[2] Jn 17:3-4
[3] Mk 1:7-11
[4] Mk 1: 9-11
[5] Mk 1:11
[6] Mk 1:5
[7] Mk 1:7-8
[8] Mk 1:11
[9] 1 Jn 5:3
[10] Mk 1: 11

Live the Church’s Year

Happy Epiphany.

If we were celebrating it on its designated feast day it would be this coming Wednesday January 6th which is the 12th day of Christmas. Today, count yourself as lucky because you just have 2 clergy up here, not 9 Ladies dancing.

Though the Octave of Christmas ended on January 1st, the intense celebration of Christmastide still continues until next Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In fact, even though the season is officially over then, we still wind down from it until February 2nd the Feast of the Presentation. You may have noticed in recent years the infant Jesus is still in the sanctuary until then, we just move him to in front of this Ambo. This is why the term ‘Christmastide’ is more accurate than the term ‘Christmas Season’. Seasons have arbitrary start and end dates; one turns off while the next turns on. But that is only for us; as far as our climate seasons are concerned, I do not really think the earth notices a change from December 20th to December 21st. Last day of fall was much like the first day of Winter. Tides, on the other hand ebb and flow, slowly. That is how Holy Mother Church’s Liturgical seasons really work. We still have Advent aspects in our Christmas-tide, and we will slowly ebb from it towards Lent (ignoring the ordinary time in between).

Today, within Christmastide, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of its most ancient celebrations, it even predates the celebration of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the World. The most recognizable aspect of Epiphany is the Wise Men, the Magi. But in times past, and even now in the Liturgy of the Hours, this celebration highlights three epiphanies: The Magi, The Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. This evening, for those praying Vespers (Evening Prayer) we will pray this antiphon:

Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.

These three epiphanies are celebrated in an elevated way; they are that important. They mark, as I mentioned earlier manifestations of Christ to the World. These ‘ah-hah’ moments when God’s creatures realized in a most profound way that God is among us. They are beacons of hope that, if we allow them, will change our lives and history.

But Epiphanies are constantly in front of us, not just the ones celebrated in special feast days; Christ manifests himself in many ways, such as: The Holy Bible, the word of God; Holy Mother Church, the bride of Christ. To name a few important examples.

There is one way that we can embrace the panoply of these events, at least those of special universal import.

The Proclamation of Easter and the Movable feasts that was just chanted, is more than a cute interlude in the Mass (or painful depending on how I did); it announces to us great days in the liturgical year that don’t fall on a set date. And it directly points us to the Church’s year, a year filled with great seasonal tides and many feast days of varying degrees. A year, that if we allow it in our hearts, creates within us a constant epiphany, and thus a growing change in our hearts, strengthens the direction of our journey.

This liturgical calendar isn’t just a schedule of color and readings, it is a life altering plan. By embracing the year and its celebrations we come to:

  • Know many of the graces that God rains upon us.
  • Come to understand what Jesus Christ did for and means to us.
  • Learn about how others before us, Saints, succeeded in their journey and maybe help us with ours.
  • Bring a light filled and hopeful atmosphere to each of us and our families.
  • Strengthen family bonds.
  • Strengthen us for our obligations and responsibilities.
  • Brighten our light in the world, so that we may help lead others.

And celebrate them all!

In short, build us into being the heralds of the great epiphany – Love; the love God has given us unconditionally.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to think about diving into the liturgical calendar with your families.   Bring the revelation of God into the daily activities for your life and by doing so bring heaven to those around you. It is the best way I can think of to put into action that what we profess at Mass. ‘We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Merry Christmas!