On this second Sunday of the New Year 2022 we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today we are reminded of our own baptism and God’s call to each of us to live the Gospel. We are asked by the Church to reflect on how we might live our baptismal call each and every day of our life. Parents, Godparents, indeed all of us who are members of the Church, are reminded that no child grows in faith alone. The familiar saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is never more clear than when we look at passing on our Catholic faith to children or those new to the faith.
As we all should know, becoming a Catholic, being faithful to Jesus Christ, living the Commandments of loving God and neighbor is not accomplished by the mere pouring of the baptismal water. Baptism only begins a life-long task of growing in faith and love of God and neighbor.
For over 2,000 years babies, young children, teenagers and older men and women, have had the saving waters of Baptism poured upon them in varied places throughout the world. Whether it was in the first wooden frame church, here in our present church or perhaps in an emergency in the hospital; St. Peter's Church has been a place where thousands have received new life in God through Baptism. That passing on of our faith and baptizing new members in the 21st century continues throughout the world.
In the Rite of Baptism for Children, the celebrant says, “You have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
Parents rightly are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. The Rite of Baptism makes that point quite clear. Though the words I have placed below are addressed to parents and godparents, just before the Baptism, they are also directed to each of us who belong to the Church and who welcome new members through Baptism. As a baptized member of the Catholic faith, I invite you to reflect upon these words, taken from the 2020 revised Rite of Baptism, on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
" Through the Sacrament of Baptism the children you have presented are about to receive from the love of God new life by water and the Holy Spirit. For your part, you must strive to bring them up in the faith, so that this divine life may be preserved from the contagion of sin, and may grow in them day by day. If your faith makes your ready to accept this responsibility, then, mindful of your own Baptism, renounce sin and profess faith in Christ Jesus, the faith of the Church, in which children are baptized." (Rite of Baptism, 2020)
When we present our children or adults to receive Baptism it is the beginning of a life-long journey with God and incorporation into the Christian community.
As we celebrate this feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we also come to the completion of the Christmas season. We return to Ordinary Time tomorrow, Monday, January 10. The next change of seasons in the Church will be the beginning of Lent on March 2, Ash Wednesday.
The past year has altered our "ordinary" way of life. Unlike last year, vaccines and a booster are now widely available to help prevent provide protection from COVID. With the new variant affecting our world the growing number of people here in the USA and throughout the world who have been affected is shocking.
What is even more tragic to me is the number of people who continue to deny the danger of this virus. If we say we respect all of life, I wonder how we can justify not wearing a mask in public? In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the danger of COVID and the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of this disease, there are still those who put themselves and countless others at risk because of behaviors that ignore medical advice on how to stay safe.
If you make one New Year's resolution this year, I would urge you to resolve to do your share of helping prevent the spread of COVID. Resolve to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid large crowds, read responsible articles from trustworthy medical people about what actions you can do in the face of this disease and remember to pray for those afflicted with the virus. Keep in your prayers and do all you can to support our medical people, those who work in essential jobs (grocery workers, delivery people, those who clean and disinfect buildings, first responders, firefighters, police, military personnel, etc) and all caregivers.
On 25 December 2021 after praying the Angelus, Pope Francis offered the traditional URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE. Below I share it with you some excerpts for your reflection in the coming week. May you have a safe week.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The Word of God, who created the world and who gives meaning to history and to humanity’s journey, became flesh and came to dwell among us. He came like a whisper, like the murmur of a gentle breeze, to fill with wonder the heart of every man and woman who is open to this mystery.
By the coming of Jesus, the Person of the Word made flesh, into our world, God showed us the way of encounter and dialogue. Indeed, he made that way incarnate in himself, so that we might know it and follow it, in trust and hope.
Sisters and brothers, “what would our world be like without the patient dialogue of the many generous persons who keep families and communities together?” (Fratelli Tutti, 198). In this time of pandemic, we have come to realize this more and more. Our capacity for social relationships is sorely tried; there is a growing tendency to withdraw, to do it all by ourselves, to stop making an effort to encounter others and do things together. On the international level too, there is the risk of avoiding dialogue, the risk that this complex crisis will lead to taking shortcuts rather than setting out on the longer paths of dialogue. Yet only those paths can lead to the resolution of conflicts and to lasting benefits for all.
Indeed, even as the message of the birth of the Saviour, the source of true peace, resounds in our hearts and in the whole world, we continue to witness a great number of conflicts, crises and disagreements. These never seem to end; by now we hardly even notice them. We have become so used to them that immense tragedies are now being passed over in silence; we risk not hearing the cry of pain and distress of so many of our brothers and sisters. Grant that, through dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of every human being, the values of solidarity, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence may prevail in the hearts of the peoples of the Americas.
Dear brothers and sisters, amid all the many problems of our time, hope prevails, “for to us a child is born” (Is 9:6). He is the word of God, who became an infant, capable only of crying, and in need of help for everything. He wished to learn how to speak, like every other child, so that we might learn to listen to God, our Father, to listen to one another and to dialogue as brothers and sisters.
O Christ, born for our sake, teach us to walk beside you on the paths of peace.
~ Pope Francis