Bishop’s Letter: Grasp

 

I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Isaiah 42:6,7

 

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

What strong and beautiful words we hear proclaimed in Scripture on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  Think of the imagery from the words of the Prophet Isaiah:  I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people.  To grasp someone’s hand effects a sense of urgency, a desire for the person.  God chooses us and forms us.  We fulfill His covenant; that is, we carry forth His light for all the nations.  How do we do that?  At baptism, we receive the light of Christ—He passes the torch to us: I formed you and set you as a covenant of the people…a light for the nations.

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes our liturgical season of Christmas.  The season of Christmas is the feast of the incarnation; that is God becoming flesh in the person of Jesus. During this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ into our world and into our hearts, and reflect on the gift of salvation that is born with Him…including the fact that He was born to die for us.

Every Eucharist is like Christmas where the bread and wine are transformed into His flesh, His Body and Blood, and, in a sense, He is born anew on the altar.

In the Gospel of Matthew, John asks the question of Jesus which we all ask, “Why would I baptize You-You should be baptizing me!  Jesus replies as God has willed Him—He asks for baptism to fulfill all righteousness.  He is chosen by God the Father to fulfill the covenant of the people.  Jesus’ baptism will show the right relationship between God and the people.  Though Jesus has no need of repentance, He stands in solidarity with all of us that do need to repent.  Jesus’ divine presence is revealed by the opening of the heavens and He is called beloved.  We too are called beloved at our baptism and in this Sacrament we join Jesus and all those through the ages who have become one in Christ.  The Sacrament of Baptism is a covenant between you and God and His people.  The Lord blesses us with His Peace.

As we close the Christmas season with the anointing of our Lord through the Sacrament of Baptism, we consider afresh the meaning of the Christmas season, which is not meant to be separate or apart from our daily living.  Rather the Gift of the Christmas moment is the person of Jesus Who shows us by His own living, how we are to live.  He humbles Himself to our humanity and begins by participating in His own baptism; to show us the importance of Sacramental living.  Again, He affirms us in His gentle manner and by His vocation, offers us His light to guide our path.  He does not live as a monarch, but among the people.  He talks with strangers; eats with sinners; and touches those whom no one else would.  He manifests beloved that we might not forget who we are.

Prepare yourself always.  When you arise, think about how you will manifest beloved to your family, your co-workers, the strangers whom you encounter at the grocery store or walking down the street.  When you prepare for sleep, consider all that you have done to fulfill God’s covenant for the day.  Do not let Christmas slip away.  May we live as beloved; a covenant of His people.