The Baptism of the Lord
Our Lord’s baptism concludes the 44 days of Advent and Christmas. If we love Christmas season and hate to see it end, we have only to remember Mr. Scrooge. Having met the spirits of Christmas, his conversion made him known as the man who lived Christmas every day of the year! There is a goal for us.
After Christmas day the liturgy gives us responses of faith to the mystery of the Incarnation. Stephen, John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents invite us to ponder their responses. The first week end with Mary, Mother of God, but also one who responds as a disciple. She always listens to the Word and pondering in her heart.
Our second week of Christmas unveils the challenge of having faith. We met John the Baptist. Prompted by the Spirit he identifies Jesus as God’s chosen One. Yet John will send messengers from his prison cell to ask Jesus, ‘are you the one?’. A final act of faith must be made by John it would seem. We hear the disciples whom Jesus calls give Our Lord various titles: Messiah, Son of God, King of Israel, Rabbi. What more could be said? But we know these are hollow titles, their meanings to be filled in by the words and actions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Wedding Feast of Cana, Mary’s annunciation to Jesus by the one who responded to the angel’s annunciation, sets Jesus on the work of giving glory to the Father and of being glorified by the Father.
‘As we end Christmas Matthew’s focus is on the person of Jesus. We have the identity of the one who will lead us to the Father and proclaim the Kingdom of God. What we have reflected on the days of Christmas is proclaimed, ‘This is my beloved Son. My favor rests upon him.’
Madeline L’Engle in her book ‘Wind in the Door’, the second of a quintet of children’s books that deal with the battle of good and evil, introduces a ‘singular cherubim’ by the name of Proginoskes. He helps the main character, Meg, in her battle and becomes her special friend. To her this angel of a hundred wings and a variety of eyes is Progo.
He has the mission of being a Namer, a sacred job. Progo explains that in his training he had to learn the names of the stars. When asked by Meg, ‘which ones?’ he replies with a strange expression, ‘why all of them of course! (we realize there are billions!). Meg points this out to him and he concedes that it was a bit of work, but important because each of the stars like to be called by their name when God addresses them.
Angels decorated our parish church this year, large beautiful angels suspended from the ceiling. They gathered the assembly and said something wonderful is going to take place. Two bore Advent symbols of an open treasure chest of God’s Word and a house, God will dwell with us and the Word will become flesh. An angel also hovered over a large backdrop behind the altar of our children gathered around the manger. Let us take our leave of Christmas in the company of the angles who have been with us these days. If a star’s identity is important, how sacred is ours! And how important what we hear of the identity of Jesus: the Son, the Beloved, the New Israel.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.