BEFORE THE CROSS | Jesus became human so we might share in His divinity
The Christmas season concludes on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (this year on Jan. 9). Ordinary Time starts the next day. What memory or grace from the Christmas season will you carry into Ordinary Time to help you live more closely with the Lord this coming year?
The Baptism of the Lord provides a good possibility. In prayer and in our imagination, we might go down into the waters with Jesus. Then, when we rise with Him, we hear the Father speaking over us: you are my beloved son/daughter.
That's our deepest identity — a beloved son or daughter of the Father. It's also our first vocation — to live our lives as a response to His love. But let's clear away a common misconception: God doesn't wait for us to be sinless before He loves us. He loves us in our imperfections, and invites us to grow toward perfection by responding to His love.
Can we really be beloved as we are, imperfections and all? And can His love really draw us toward perfection? As if reading our hearts, the Letter to the Hebrews — which is begun in the readings this week — answers both questions.
On Tuesday, we hear from Hebrews that Jesus tasted death for everyone. On Wednesday, we hear that Jesus shared our flesh and blood because "He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every way." On Thursday, we hear that "we have become partners of Christ." And on Saturday, we hear that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses because He was similarly tested in every way. That's why we can ask Him for help.
The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus shared in all that is ours, so that He might share with us all that is His. St. Thomas Aquinas summarizes this point: "The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in His divinity, assumed our nature" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460). What a trade — He took what is ours so that He could give us what is His!
When a dirty person goes into the water, his or her dirt gets into the water. By contrast, when Jesus goes into the water, His holiness gets into the water. To share fully in what is ours, He went into the waters of sin and death. To share fully in what is His, we go into the waters of baptism. We made the waters dirty, and He took upon Himself the consequences of our sin. He made the waters holy and gave us the consequences of His sacrifice: eternal life.
So, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, go into the waters with Jesus. Let yourself hear the Father's voice calling you a beloved son or daughter. Let Him delight in you, not because you're perfect but because you're His. Let His love draw you closer to Jesus throughout the coming year.
That's a grace that's worth carrying forward from the Christmas season. Welcome to Ordinary Time.
Deacon Leroy A. Martin, a permanent deacon, assisting the chaplain at St. Mary's Health Center, is granted retirement status, effective Jan. 31, 2017
Rev. Timothy J. Foy, associate pastor of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, is appointed parochial administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish, Gildehaus, effective Jan. 17, 2017
Rev. Michael R. Rennier, newly ordained, is appointed associate pastor of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, effective Jan. 17, 2017.
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