Talking with the pre-school students about baptism
Letters from a Pastor to His People- January 12, 2020
On this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, a quote by Saint John Henry Newman comes to mind. I used this quote recently in a homily at a wedding on New Year’s Eve, thinking of ends and beginnings. "Fear not that thy life shall come to an end," says Newman, "but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning."
The Sacrament of Baptism, like Marriage, is both an end and an beginning. It's the end of a former way of life; the beginning of a new life in God's grace.
Now, Jesus did not receive the sacrament when he was baptized by John in the Jordan River. He, of course, had no original sin and he did not enter the church (the two effects of the Sacrament of Baptism). He is the church! But he did, however, experience an end and a beginning.
Quite literally, the thirty years of his hidden life were officially brought to an end with the baptism. Jesus would move out of Nazareth, let go of his carpentry tools, kiss his mother goodbye, and say farewell to his neighbors and local rabbi. Jesus would henceforth be the Galilean called by the Father to redeem the world. That's what we hear in the excerpt from Acts of the Apostles in our second reading today. The baptism was the beginning of Christ's public ministry.
But on an even deeper level our Lord experienced an end and a beginning. It has to do with his relationship to God the Father. Not that Jesus didn't love the Father before, but now Jesus experiences a deeper form of surrender to the Father. His next three years will be one of trust. God the Father will be working through his Son "doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38). Jesus will allow the Father to work through him.
There is a great line in the first reading from Isaiah: "I have grasped you by the hand" (Isaiah 42:6). It's as if the Father is grasping Jesus by the hand, and Jesus is allowing himself to be lifted.
God the Father wants to do the same with us: to grasp us by the hand and lift us. It's for us to surrender and trust. Let us end our lives of clenches fists and begin a new life with an open hand stretched upward to the Father.
I'm starting a new Saint Juliana Book Club. The goal is to read a book every month or so. The first book will be The Devil's Advocate by Morris West and we will meet Saturday, February 1st at 9:30am in the parish center. Please obtain a copy of the book yourself. If you can't make the discussion meeting, you're still welcome to read the book along with us. This is a novel I think you'll find particularly interesting!
Yesterday, January 11th was the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Boy Scout Troop 965. Congratulations to Brian Pritt and Zach Ryan, two young men from our parish who received the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the order. They've worked very hard over the years earning the various ranks and doing service projects (again, Brian did the landscaping work and bench outside of the parish center), and they enter a special company of Saint Juliana Eagle Scouts dating back at least forty years. A special thank you goes to Mr. John Pelrine and the leaders of the troop who were instrumental in helping Brian and Zach earn this award. Well done all of you!
The Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is this Sunday at 11am in the parish hall and the Men's Club will meet this Monday at 7pm. Have a great week!
Yours in Christ,