Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan

Baptism of Jesus by Giotto

On the cusp of the return to Ordinary Time we encounter the last of the three great Epiphanies - the first revelations of Jesus the Christ, Redeemer of humankind. Various rituals accompany the stories of the Magi following the star to the infant whose birth was foretold in the ancient texts; the unpremeditated manifestation of divine power in the transformation of water into wine at Cana in Galilee; and today Jesus' humble submission to the ministry of John the Baptizer confirmed by God the Father, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased."

Today the celebrant of our Mass was Father George Keaveney, CSsR, Rector of Mount St. Alphonsus Retreat Center. In his homily he asked us to spend some time thinking about our own baptism, the promises that were made for most of us by our godparents and the intensification of those promises by our vows in religious life.

I found myself thinking about the circumstances of my own baptism in 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. My young mother did not come to the church. That simply was not done. My father was on the Pacific island of Guam serving in the U.S. Air Corps in the last days of World War II. I was only eight days old but it had to be done because my godmother was leaving for California with only $500 to her name to start her own designer dress business. (Yes, it became a great success.) The godfather was my thirteen year old uncle.

What did that sacrament mean for my life? What was begun in St. Mary Mother of Jesus Church those many years ago? Today Father Keaveney quoted St. Augustine who said that in baptism Jesus becomes closer to us than we are to ourselves. That is a good thought to have in mind each time I bless myself with holy water from the font.

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