Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This weekend’s Gospel we hear the passage where Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. As we reflect the meaning of that action, we also need to ask ourselves how we can follow Jesus through this event.
We hear from the Gospels that John was announcing a baptism of conversion for the repentance of sins and many people were coming to be baptized by him as a sign of penance from their wrongful deeds. The Jewish ritual was a recognition of their own sins before God and asked to be purified from them. In light of that, when he sees Jesus coming for baptism, he understands that Jesus as God did not have to be baptized. So, what was the meaning of Jesus’ Baptism? We know that Jesus’ “Baptism” was not the institution of the sacrament as we currently know it. Much needs to be understood of the meaning of our baptism. In sum, the sacrament of baptism is rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ into a new life of grace. John the Baptist recognizing Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” acknowledges that he is the one to be baptized by Jesus. From their dialogue, Jesus says that he needs to be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15). Jesus becomes man like us (but in sin) in order to fulfill the will of the Father. Jesus becomes the least of all men, he assumes the last place, in order to save all of us. This is one of the facts that shows that he did not hold on his heavenly majesty, but became fully human. In the plan of salvation, it was necessary that people understood that Jesus was fully man, and therefore joined the reality of sinners in action so that this nature could be redeemed by him. In brief, Jesus was baptized because it was necessary to do the will of the Father. We shall hear later in the Gospel in the agony of the Gethsemane that Jesus once again desires to do the will of God.
In light of this very brief explanation that could be developed into months of lectures, we need to ask ourselves today, WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD FOR ME? There are actions which are desirable to God for us to do or not to do. We could summarize it in the pursuit of good/grace and avoidance of evil/sin. But how to know which good to pursue, since there are many good things that we can do? Usually avoiding sin is pretty clear, although difficult at times not to sin. I believe it was Fulton Sheen (or another saint) who said that unless we fill the void of sin with graces from God, we would always fall back into the same sins. Certainly, we need to pray more asking God to reveal his will to us. But that requires a predisposition to do WHATEVER HE ASKS, just like the Virgin did and taught us to do.
In this particular time, God offers us the possibility of receiving special graces by standing up in the public/political sphere to defend life. This year in which the Supreme Court is deliberating the legality of abortion, we need to show our support and where we stand regarding abortion. Each year there are about 600,000 induced abortions per CDC reports, which counts only medical procedures and those that are reported (the states are not obliged to report the numbers. The Guttmacher institute (originally created as a branch from Planned Parenthood) raises the number to more than 800 thousand per year. Their report shows that as many as 18% of all pregnancies ended up in abortion in 2017; 1 out of 4 women had an abortion. Many of them were either pressured by someone else or where in such difficult moment of their lives that abortion seemed the only way out. As we stand in prayer for the healing of each and every person (including all men) who participated in abortion, we will also have an OPPORTUNITY TO DO A PILGRIMAGE TO WASHINGTON DC for the March for life. We will have a group from IC leaving Thursday, January 20th and returning Friday, January 21st evening. We will stop at the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini in NY, and also participate in a mass with Cardinal Sean in DC. Please check the website or call the office for more information. We have a limited number of spaces available. For those who cannot travel with us for whatever reason, but would like to participate, you can either sponsor a pilgrim (whatever donation helps) or/and participate in a 24H ADORATION VIGIL FOR LIFE on those same days.
I invite you to prayerfully consider what God is asking each of us to do in our lives. Whatever it may be, we don’t need to be afraid as many times we hear in Scriptures. We hear in the passage of the Transfiguration that has many connections to this weekend’s liturgy, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, LISTEN TO HIM”.
Father Steven Clemence