National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Christ’s Shortcut

User’s Guide to Sunday

BY Tom and April Hoopes

January 3-16, 2010 Issue | Posted 12/27/09 at 6:57 PM


Sunday, Jan. 10 is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Sunday, Jan. 17 is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Jan. 10 Readings

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalms 29:1-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Our Take

All good things must end. After this feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, the Christmas season is definitively over.

But this first feast of the adult Jesus continues a lesson that started at Christmas.

The Catechism, No. 518, says, “All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation.”

Then, it goes a step forward. “When Christ became incarnate and was made man,” it says, he “procured for us a ‘shortcut’ to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus. For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.”

So, the answer to the question “Why did Christ do that?” is, at one level, always the same: “to give us a ‘shortcut’ to salvation.”

He was baptized so we would know to be baptized. He also, in the words of Peter in today’s second reading, “went about doing good” so we would know to do that.

God has done the hard part. Our job: Follow him through the shortcut he made. And as Isaiah’s reading points out, he doesn’t even leave that to us: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice,” it says. “I have grasped you by the hand.”

Jan. 17 Readings

Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalms 96:1-3, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12

Our Take

As the new year — and Ordinary Time — begin in earnest, the liturgy gives us a month of beginnings.

Christmas is over; soon will come Lent and sacrifice. But in between, throughout January, the Church draws our attention to the ways Christ began his public ministry.

In each case, Christ’s way of beginning includes a shadow of the cross. At the Epiphany, it’s the threat of Herod. At his baptism, it’s the beginning of his confrontation with the devil in the desert. And as we’ll see later in the month, his prophecy about the messiah — “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your midst” — will end with a direct threat on his life.

Today’s “beginning” is the wedding feast at Cana. John calls it “a beginning of his signs” and says he “revealed his glory.”

In the text, Mary herself prompts the miracle that makes Christ known as an extraordinary figure.

It starts when she points out the wedding party has no more wine.

Christ’s response — “My hour has not yet come” — is a reference to the fact, seemingly well known to both mother and son, that to reveal his glory will lead to “his hour”: his death.

Her reply is to tell the servants to “Do whatever he tells you,” which spiritual writers say is the counsel she gives to everyone at all times.

Thus, at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, the Father (via a voice at his baptism) and his Mother are present, just as they will be in the end when he commits the Church to Mary and his spirit to his Father.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.