Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
You may recall that back in November of 2018, a parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land was planned. The pilgrimage filled up almost immediately. It’s hard to believe but it’s now time to go! From January 15th through the 24th I will be accompanying thirty-four fellow parishioners to visit the land where God walked. We will see nearly all the places we hear about in the Scriptures. As I did when on sabbatical in 2015 when I began in the Holy Land, I am taking each of you with me spiritually and will be offering the Holy Mass for each of you and your intentions. Please pray for the safety of all on the trip; and please pray for peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East.
This weekend as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, we will begin some of the Masses with the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling of Water, recalling our own Baptism when Christ washed us clean of original sin and incorporated into His Mystical Body. As the priest moves through the assembly sprinkling the blessed water on the people, the cantor will sing, “Sprinkle me with hyssop, O Lord and I shall be cleansed; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:9). “This sprinkling with water is a visual reminder of Baptism (the foundational sacrament of all repentance) and the unique character of Sunday. Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, we die, are buried, and rise again with Christ: we thereby share in Christ’s victory over sin and death.” (Lawrence Johnson, The Mystery of Faith: A Study of the Structural Elements of the Order of the Mass, 1994.)
While the Most Holy Eucharist is the crown of the Sacraments, Baptism is the foundational Sacrament, which truly makes us a member of the Mystical Body of Christ and opens the door to all the other Sacraments. Your challenge this week: If you don’t already know, research the day of your Baptism, when you were reborn in Christ. Celebrate this day in some special way every year. Perhaps go to Mass that day and even treat yourself to a special dessert! Look up your child’s or godchild’s date and give him or her a small religious gift. There are many, wonderful ways to celebrate supremely important anniversary.
I have heard people say, “Well, I didn’t choose this for myself. My parents chose it for me.” That’s partly correct. Yes, if you were an infant/child, you didn’t choose it. Instead, you were chosen, but not by your parents. Jesus said, “It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you” (St. John 15:16); and “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). You and I were chosen by Christ for this divine faith to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He chose you.
Finally, our seasonal prayer to our Blessed Mother: Loving Mother of the Redeemer, Gate of Heaven, Star of the Sea, assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again. To the wonderment of nature, you bore your Creator, yet remained a virgin after as before. You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting, have pity on us poor sinners. Amen.
Yours in Christ and Our Lady,