Rediscover the Life of Christ
User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 11
Sunday, Jan. 11, is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year B).
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-4, 3, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11
The end of January has a reputation for being the saddest part of the year.
The Church wisely gives those of us in the Northern Hemisphere tools to deal with winter: At its height, we get Christmas; and then, just when we can’t take it anymore, we get Lent to help us offer it up.
But in the sad month of January, we get Ordinary Time (and the official end of the Christmas season).
One of the chief joys of Christmas is learning about the life of Christ. The humble Infant in the manger is thrilling to us — but the rest of his life is also capable of moving us.
In today’s second reading from Acts, St. Peter sums up the life of Christ: “Beginning in Galilee, after the baptism that John preached … God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
What he describes is the story the Church gives us in the weeks leading up to Lent.
In the first three weeks of Ordinary Time, we meet Jesus and learn about his call.
1. The Baptism of the Lord: Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River. It is a time to remember how our own baptism changed us.
2. In the second week of Ordinary Time, John points to Jesus, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and the disciples follow immediately. “What are you looking for?” Jesus asks them. He asks us that, too.
3. In the third week, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew and then James and John — two sets of fishermen-brothers — with the words, “Follow me!” He calls us with the same two words.
In the next three weeks, we get to know Jesus.
4. Jesus reveals who he is, by teaching with authority at the synagogue. He wants that authority in our lives, too.
5. After his big revelation to the world, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law, and the sick gather outside his door. He hopes we will also seek his healing.
6. Jesus cures the lepers, and the joyful news of him starts to spread. He wants us to have the same infectious joy.
And then comes the First Sunday of Lent.
Why not take this “Ordinary Time” to rediscover the life of Christ and let his life enter ours?
To read about the life of Christ, try to find a book that introduces Jesus in the context of what the Church teaches. Be careful with books that try to find Jesus apart from the Church — such as Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus and James Carroll’s Christ, Actually. While there are worthwhile aspects of these works, they can be misleading in significant ways.
Here are a few currently available life-of-Christ books we have seen recommended:
Jesus of Nazareth (and its sequels) by Pope Benedict XVI;
The Man Christ Jesus: How the Lord Looked, Acted, Prayed and Loved, By Cardinal Giacomo Biffi;
The Lord by Romano Guardini;
To Know Christ Jesus by Frank Sheed;
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.