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User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 12
BY Tom and April Hoopes
Sunday, Jan. 12, is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year A, Cycle II).
On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 12, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptize infants — the first time he will perform this papal tradition.
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalms 29:1-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17
Today is the day Jesus Christ got baptized.
This is as strange a concept as any in the Christian year. The Second Person of the Trinity underwent a ritual cleansing from sin by a human being in a desert river.
Jesus Christ didn’t need to be baptized, but he did it anyway, “to fulfill all righteousness.” He wanted to model for us the new beginning baptism is and encourage us to make the same new beginning.
He went into the water and emerged, so that we can follow him through the water and emerge like him. Or, as Pope Francis put it on Jan. 8, in baptism, “we dive into the inexhaustible source of life; we come from the death of Jesus so we can live a new life of communion with God and with our brothers.”
Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of the mission that St. Peter describes in today’s second reading: “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Baptism does the same thing in us.
It prepares us to join the Church in transforming the world, as the first reading puts it: “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement and, from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
Pope Francis spoke about baptism in his Jan. 8 general audience as the first of a series of discussions on the sacraments. He pointed out that the initiative in baptism is God’s, not ours.
“If we follow Jesus and remain in the Church,” observed the Pope, “with our limits and our fragilities and sins … we become new creatures, and we are clothed in Christ” through the sacraments.
That doesn’t mean that baptism is automatic. St. Augustine said that baptism is just the first step: The tears of repentance must follow in our lives in order for the waters of baptism to take hold.
Pope Francis hopes this Jan. 12 will be a day to renew our commitment to our baptism.
“As we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church,” he said.
As we enter Ordinary Time and leave the Christmas season behind and begin the long stretch to this year’s late Lent, let’s follow Jesus Christ as he emerges from the water to “go about doing good.”
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in
residence at Benedictine College.