Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Though the season of Christmas comes to a liturgical close with today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this celebration is hardly the end of anything. We have spent these last few weeks reflecting on the birth of Jesus into our world. The light of the world begins to shine in the darkness, is made manifest to the nations, and now in the baptism in the river Jordan that light begins a mission of salvation.
The Incarnation happens for one simple reason: “God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Humanity, fallen in sin, needs a savior. Thus, the whole mission of the incarnate Son of God is to bring salvation to the world. His mission will involve both teaching and action. Teaching – He preaches the Gospel, showing us the truth of who He is, revealing the Father’s love for us, explaining how we are to live in accord with the Father’s loving plan. Action – He enters the full depth of our human suffering by dying on the Cross for love of us, and He defeats death with the power of His Resurrection. The day of Jesus’ baptism, then, is just the beginning of something great and beautiful.
In a similar way, the day of our baptism was the beginning. On that day, we received our mission. As baptized Christians, it is our mission to live as disciples of Christ, following Him in everything and to be His apostles, those sent out to bring Jesus to others. A disciple, as you know, is one who follows. So every baptized person is called to be a follower of Christ. We follow Christ by living in a relationship with Him, a relationship rooted especially in prayer and the sacraments. To be a follower means also to be a student. Thus, we must get to know Jesus in reflection and study, as well. How well do we know the story of the Gospel? How well do we understand the Catholic faith? Are we willing to ask questions and seek answers? An apostle is one who is sent out on mission. In baptism, we also became apostles of Jesus Christ, sent out into the world to bring His light and love everywhere we go. Often we think of those heroic missionary saints who went to far off lands, learned foreign languages, lived in poverty and difficulty, yet proclaimed the Gospel with courage and conviction and we wonder if we could ever do it or how we could possibly have a mission that compares. And yet the fact remains that God has entrusted each of us with a mission. The truth is that the mission is most often lived out in simple ways, through fidelity to our daily responsibilities with family, through our daily prayer, through our treatment of the people around us.
Baptism did not mark the end of our Christian journey. The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, while marking the end of a liturgical season, is in fact just another beginning. May this feast once again focus our attention on our mission in Christ, to bring His light, love, and mercy into the world!