The Layperson’s Christmas

Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.

Sunday, Jan. 11, is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Year B, Cycle I).

Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass and baptize children today in the Sistine Chapel at 10 a.m.

Parish offers “Best Parish Practices.”

While Christmas is still on our minds, we wanted to mention a crèche initiative that might be hard to duplicate exactly, but could inspire similar efforts.

Father John Myler, pastor of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville, Ill., reports that the cathedral displays Nativity sets and images of the Virgin Mary from around the world.

“Visiting Nativity sets from around the world is an occasion for the members of a family to come into contact with the mystery of Christmas,” he said, “of the Word made flesh and of God’s solidarity with the poor and the humble in all nations, in all places.”

The source of St. Peter’s crèches is the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, Ohio. The event is also an opportunity to promote Advent Sunday afternoons/evenings of reflection — usually on the Nativity narratives — which are often led by the bishop.


Pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary today. The first is the Baptism of Jesus, today’s feast.

Jan. 14 is St. Macrina’s day. On Jan. 2, the Church celebrated the feast of her grandchild, St. Basil the Great, who was born around 329. He learned the faith in large part from Macrina, his father’s mother, who either raised him entirely or brought him up in large part. During one of the Roman persecutions, Macrina and her husband had been forced to hide in the forest for seven years, eating whatever they could find. During another persecution, Macrina and her husband had all their property and belongings taken from them. Talk to your grandparents today and pay attention to their stories!


Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 29:1-4, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Mark 1:7-11

EPriest offers free homily packs for priests.

Our Take

Today’s feast is like a layman’s Christmas. At Christmas, Mary uniquely brought the Son of God into the world. In today’s feast, we remember how John launched Christ’s ministry with baptism.

In today’s Gospel, John sums up the mission of the lay person. As he said, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

John’s role is analogous to every lay person: We introduce others to Christ and bring them to the sacraments. It’s Christ, working through the priest, who reaches them, not us.

To imitate John, we can:

1. Put Christ in first place in our lives as mightier than our own personal preferences. For John, that meant living in the wild and eating locusts and honey and preaching repentance. For us, it will at least mean forgoing things we love that are bad for us: excessive drink, indulgent eating habits, gossip, inappropriate movies and any immorality.

2. Give a testimony to Christ when we can. Let others know that a life of Mass, confession, prayer and community service has brought us a peace that we could never have found on our own.

3. Invite people back to the sacraments. Look to the guides at (click “Resources,” then “How to Be a Catholic”) for help.

If you can bring Christ into someone else’s life, you can make your own small “lay Christmas.”