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


In one the first RCIA classes I attended 21 years ago Father asked a question to the class.  How many in this room are at least a little afraid of dying?  Many, including the catechists, didn’t raise their hands; some of us, including me and surprisingly Father Mike, did.  He then went on to say that it was normal to be nervous, a little afraid of the future because it is an unknown; and dying even more so, because it is an unknown involving eternity.

At the very beginning of his trilogy on Jesus Nazareth Pope Benedict XVI writes ‘In every age, man’s questioning has focused not only on his ultimate origin … [but also] what preoccupies him is the hiddenness of the future that awaits him.  Man wants to tear aside the curtain; he wants to know what is going to happen, so that he can avoid perdition and set out toward salvation.[1]

So it is that mankind’s curiosity of eternity hovers on the edge of fear.  Most people are fearful of eternity because they are not really convinced they know what it entails.  Even the most devout Christians who believe Christ’s revelation about what it entails are fearful that we won’t pass the grade when it comes.  So it is no surprise that today’s Gospel[2] and St. Paul’s words today at Mass from his 1st letter to the Thessalonians[3] make us at least a little nervous. “Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.[4] we heard from St. Paul today and as I heard these words I felt myself wonder will I be caught unaware to enter eternity. When the time comes will I be worthy of the Kingdom of God – heaven?

The Jews of the Bible viewed eternity somewhat differently than we do.  I bet if I asked each of you what eternity means you would say it is where we end up after we die (or some variation of that) – something down the proverbial road from now; somewhere in future. Not so with the Jews of Jesus day; eternity to them was the present onward. History was yesterday and back; but eternity begins now – with the present.

Brothers and sisters, as our Jewish brothers understand we have reached eternity; and as Christ proclaims we have already entered into the Kingdom God.  “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”[5] He tells us in Mark.  The truth of eternity/eternal life shouldn’t be uncertain – we know what it is – we have seen it. Jesus praying to His Father gives us this knowledge: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ”.[6]

The questions of what eternity is and when it starts are answered – there should be no uncertainty. Our concerns should be centered on how we live our life at this beginning of eternity.  Our energies should be focused on following the true path – Jesus Christ; because without Him we are lost.  The good news is that Christ has given us the surest guide and companion for our journey – Holy Mother Church.  Today’s first reading from Proverbs[7] gives us this great news.  At first reading it seems to be about spousal love and self-giving, and it is.  But it is also about Christ’s relation with His spouse – Holy Mother Church. Christ who has given us His bride to help us, to be our refuge, our guide; loves her absolutely ‘entrusting his heart to her’[8]. With this understanding we can be assured that if we live within Holy Mother Church we are walking with Christ.  The darkness of the world and its prince cannot pierce the light of Christ that shines through His bride.  Holy Mother Church who radiates the light of Christ bathes her children in that same light – if we allow her to.  With her we walk along eternity towards her spouse and our final home. With her we need to bring as many of our neighbors who live in darkness into the light of eternal certitude – into the loving embrace of God.


[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Volume 1 pg 1
[2] Mt 25:14-30
[3] 1 Thes 5:1-6
[4] 1 Thes 5:1-2
[5] Mk 1:15
[6] Jn 17:3
[7] Prvbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
[8] Prvbs 31:13