My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
We are having a good beginning of the New Year. 2014! It goes fast, huh?
I had the blessing of starting the year making a retreat, as we do every year, all the bishops of Southern California. My brother bishops and I were making this retreat and it was a special time of blessings for all of us.
It is always good to try to find the time to specially pray and listen to God and talk to God in a recollected way. I know that this is always challenging for all of us because we have busy lives to find the time to pray. I hope that this year, you will also have the time to especially pray and dedicate time to God.
Today we are concluding the liturgical season of Christmas with this beautiful feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.
This feast day celebrates the Baptism of our Lord. And we have that beautiful tapestry in the back of the Church where the baptistery of baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ that reminds us of that special moment in his life and in the history of Redemption.
This Feast of the Baptism of our Lord is one more “epiphany.” It’s one more manifestation of who Jesus is and why he came to be with us.
So the Gospel that we just heard, tells us: The heavens were opened. The Spirit of God came down like a dove. And a great Voice came from the heavens saying, This is my beloved Son!
So this Gospel passage is telling us who Jesus is. But it is also telling us who we are and why Jesus came to us.
A couple of days ago, I was asked about “What is important for young people to know, as they face the challenges of life?” And I said that for me one of the most important things is that they know that God loves them and that God, that he is seriously interested in having a relationship with them — a relationship with each one of us.
And that’s what the Baptism of our Lord reminds us — that God is interested in us! This is a very beautiful mystery of our faith. Jesus, who is perfect God and perfect man, he who is the Lord of all, he’s so great — all beauty, all perfection — he came down to be our friend. To bless us, to bring us joy and peace, and to show us the way to be happy.
That’s also what the prophet Isaiah is telling us in the first reading of today’s Mass.
He tells us that God sent his Servant for the victory of justice. That means he sent Jesus to bring peace, to make things right between God and us. He sent Jesus to set us free from sin and death. So we can live in a covenant of love with God and with our brothers and sisters. So he sent Jesus to open our eyes to see the beauty of God, and the beauty of creation, and the beauty of our lives.
That’s what the Sacrament of Baptism does! St. Peter tells us in the second reading today that after Jesus was baptized, Jesus went about healing all those oppressed by the devil. That’s what our Baptism does. Our Baptism heals us. It sets us free from the devil, from original sin.
So today it is a commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord. But it is also a moment when we have to reflect on our own Baptism.
When we hear how the Spirit came upon Jesus, we have to remember our own Baptism. When we hear how the heavens opened and God’s voice declared, “This is my beloved Son” — we have to remember our own Baptism.
Because, my dear brothers and sisters, those same things happened when we were baptized. When we were baptized, God’s love was poured down on us through his Holy Spirit! On the day when we were baptized, God our Father called us his beloved children. His sons and daughters.
So we are God’s children now! This is the marvelous meaning of this great Feast. This is the amazing reality of our Christian lives. We can be like Jesus, a child of God. We can call God, “Our Father.” “My Father.” Isn’t it beautiful reality in our Christian life?
That’s what was interesting that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said this week that we should all know the date of our own Baptism.
He said: “We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism. We are called to live out our Baptism every day as the present reality of our lives.”
That’s a beautiful thought. And that’s what the Feast that we celebrate today calls us to do. So I was thinking, that when we go home today, we need to do a little homework. Maybe we can look up or ask about the date when we were baptized. And to keep it in mind and know about it. Our Holy Father says that we should remember that beautiful day and celebrate as we celebrate our birthdays. He says our baptismal day should be like a little “feast day” for us.2
And I have to confess, that I already checked it out in my own life. I knew that it was a few days after I was born. And I looked today before coming here and I was baptized January 5 and I was born December 26. So as you can see, my parents were good Catholics. They immediately went to church and I was baptized, Thanks be to God!
So a little homework for all of you today. Make sure you know your day of baptism and make sure you celebrate it because it’s a beautiful moment when we receive the grace of God and the grace of the Sacrament of Baptism.
Because the day we were baptized was the day when heaven was opened for us. The beautiful gift of Baptism makes our whole lives a way of salvation. A road that we are following to heaven. A road that we are walking together with Jesus Christ, who accompanies us as our Brother.
Yes, we are children of God! And Jesus is the one who shows us how to really live as a child of God. So we need to talk to Jesus more. We need to pray and reflect on the figure of Jesus in the Gospels — every day. We need to be with him every single day of our lives.
We need to try to be like him. It means that we have to think like Jesus and that we have to love, also, like Jesus. That’s challenging because that means that we have to forgive as Jesus did. We need to see Jesus in everyone we meet — and especially in the faces of the poor and those who are hurting. And we need to have a desire to open our hearts — to love every one. To open our hearts to serve others and to be people who help others to have hope.
So it is a beautiful day, the Baptism of the Lord.
So let us pray today for a greater awareness of the gift of our own Baptism.
And let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother for her intercession to help us to really live our Baptism. Every day living like Jesus, like a child of God.
1. Readings (Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Year A): Isa. 42:1-4, 6-7; Ps. 29:1-4, 9-10; Acts 10:34-38; Matt. 3:13-17.
2. General Audience (January 8, 2014).