So we have arrived at the last day of Christmas. In the Gospel we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father say, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." God has given us the greatest Christmas gift, his own Son. But now Jesus is no longer a baby but a grown man ready to do his Father’s will. He will help us to grow from infant Christians into adult Evangelists, men and women who also do God’s will. We began Advent hearing about John the Baptist preparing people to receive the Messiah, and now his ministry comes to an end when Jesus appears. But first Jesus asks John to baptize him which is strange because baptism, we know, is for sinners, and Jesus was not a sinner. Even John the Baptist was confused, but we hear Jesus say 'allow it now." The lesson is that as Christians the Lord will ask us to do things that we may not understand and, like John, we may even try to prevent it at first. It is true that sometimes following our Catholic faith doesn't make sense to us, but Jesus wants us to trust him first. So John trusts Jesus and baptizes him as he did all the common sinners.

But Jesus uses his baptism not to be cleansed from sins but to identify himself with us sinners. He comes and identifies himself with our struggles as fallen creatures and our desires to be cleansed and set free from the burden of sin. What a great act of love! Jesus is God but he is also man who knows how hard life on earth gets sometimes and that the temptation to sin is very real. And so he wasn't too high and all mighty that he could not come down to our level, that he couldn't get into the muddy water with us, to share our human condition. He helps us to recognize that like our natural desire to wash the filth from our body, our soul desires to be cleansed from spiritual filth. He wants us to learn to trust that through baptism we have a new beginning, a new life, we are born again.

At his baptism, Jesus also receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We hear in the Gospel that John saw the heavens open up and The Spirit of God descending on Jesus like a dove. Of course, Jesus already had the Holy Spirit as God but as a man he allowed himself to be anointed by the Spirit in order to start his vocation, his public work, as priest, prophet and king for the salvation of the world. That is how amazing Jesus is. He is God. All Perfect. All Happy. All Good. Yet, he became one of us, a man like all things but sin, in order to save us. So the lesson for us is, although he did not need to be saved, he humbled himself and showed us sinners what we must do in order to be saved. And what is that? Be baptized! And, like Jesus, when we are baptized, the Heavens are opened up and the Holy Spirit descends upon us and anoints us. That means that we become like Christ. We share in his anointing. Christ became like us so that we can become like him so that we, too, can know that God is with us to give us the power to go about doing good and to heal all those oppressed by the devil.

Now, we might not understand all of this, like John the Baptist perhaps, but when we allow it, when we trust Jesus and don’t prevent him, we allow his work to take place. We allow his grace to enter into us and make us share in his vocation, his mission, to save the world. Someone might say, I am too weak, or, I do not have the capacity to do all that. Well, everyone here that has been baptized has the power of Holy Spirit in them, the strength of Jesus Christ. You share in his ministry as priest, prophet, and king by the grace of your baptism. So you have the capacity. You just have to have the faith to use it. It isn't just the work of the priest. There is just one of me. The way it works is I am the ordained priest of Jesus Christ and you come to me one day a week, on the Lord's day, so that I may minister to you and build you up during the Mass. But it then it is your job to go out into the world, into this town, back to your families, your friends, your school and work place to bring people to Christ. This is called evangelization: To be their priest, prophet and king. What does this look like? Well, it is your job to be the priest of Jesus Christ to all you meet during the week, that is, to intercede for them, to serve them, to heal them with love and mercy so as to lead them to salvation. This is very important. If you are not living out this priestly duty then you are not being a true Christian and others aren’t coming to know Christ. Think about it: For example, if you came to church and I, the priest, wasn't here for a Sunday or two, wouldn't you say that I was neglecting my job? You have a similar responsibility, not on Sunday, but on every other day of the week to build up the people in your lives. It is your job to take what you receive here at Mass and share it with everyone you encounter in your everyday lives.

You are also called to be a prophet. What? Aren't they just Old Testament guys who would go around crying out about God's judgment? Yes, there were prophets in the Old Testament, but Jesus is a prophet, the ultimate prophet, who tells us that this life should be lived in preparation for the next, that we should live for the Kingdom of Heaven. And so by your baptism, you share in the prophetic mission of Jesus. What does this look like? Well, it may not even require any words. Simply by coming to Mass on Sundays you are being a prophetic sign to your neighbors. While many are falling away from Christ, you are here. It is being like Jesus who came "not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street." Not by breaking a bruised reed or quenching a smoldering wick as Isaiah the prophet said of the Messiah. In other words, not by using words of fear to but acts of compassion. You become prophetic like Christ when you forgive your enemies, help the poor, follow the teachings of the Church on Marriage, making Sunday a day of worship, and live simple lives. It's not going around saying the world is ending but that a new world is beginning through Jesus Christ the King.

And this brings in the third part of your calling: As baptized Christians you all share in the kingly mission of Jesus. You do this by knowing your own royal dignity and living as free creatures who don't allow your passions to control you, like the love of money or pleasure, but putting all things at the service of our King. We act as citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom with our words and actions and treat all life with royal dignity:  The unborn baby, the elderly sick person, the undocumented immigrant. We love them as Christ loves us.  At our baptism we made a promise to live this way, or our parents and godparents made the promise for us and then taught us those promises throughout life. And when we fail, we have the sacrament of confession to renew our baptismal grace. And every Sunday Jesus renews the grace to live out our baptismal promises. That is why we come each Sunday so as to gain the grace to be faithful, to live out our baptismal promises as priests, prophets, and kings (and queens).

Are you doing your part? Are you living out your baptism promises? Are you being priestly, prophetic, are you building up his Kingdom?  That's what Jesus is going to judge us on in the end. Not what kind of car or house we have. Not how much money we made. Not what kind of job we have. He is going to ask "Were you faithful to the promises you made me at your baptism?" That is, do you recognize that Satan is a real force of evil and do you reject his influence in your life? A lot of people, including Catholics, don't acknowledge the Devil or don't see his influence in their lives. But pride, lust, laziness, unfaithfulness, anger, are just a few examples of the very real behaviors that come from the influence of the devil. The grace of our baptism helps us to recognize this evil influence. That is why as true Christians we promise to reject sin. It doesn't mean we won't sin again. It means we reject it. And The Ten Commandments is a pretty good list of the basic sins that we reject.

But our greatest promise is not what we reject but what we accept by faith: That we believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church he founded. But do we really believe this? Do we really promise our life to Jesus? Everything else in life, as important as it is, is secondary to our relationship to the Lord, if we are true Christians. Once we make living our baptism promises our priority then everything else can be used to serve the Lord and his family. When you are baptized you become a part of God's family and the parish is the local representation of that family. So supporting your parish is part of being a Christian. How much are you supporting? Are you using the parish or are you supporting it? You support the parish by bringing your family to Mass every week and teaching your children the faith in the home. Parents, can't just drop their kids off at religious education and expect them to be ready for their sacraments. The catechists’ role is to complement what is taught them at home. If the kids are not getting prayer at home, reading the bible, learning about the saints, studying their faith, and then worshiping at Mass every Sunday, they are not going to be able to live out their baptismal promises, and so they are not going to be ready to worthily receive their other sacraments. Receiving first Holy Communion, confirmation, marriage, all these give them the grace to live as priests, prophets, and kings, to support the parish family, not to stop coming after receiving them. 

Again, Jesus is our model. Jesus lived his life to please his Heavenly Father. Therefore, that is our purpose. If there is anything, any activity, any relationship that we are involved in that is pleasing to ourselves or another person or group but is not pleasing to God, then we are missing the goal of our Christian life. And therefore we are missing out on the reward of eternal life. But when we live to please God first then all other things in life will have the right order. And then, as described with the baptism of Jesus in the Gospel, we, too, will be able to hear a heavenly voice speaking to us: These are my beloved children with whom I am well pleased. Let us live out our baptismal promises and do everything to please our Heavenly Father who loves us as his own sons and daughters. Amen.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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