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Dear OLPH Family, IMG 9920

Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! We are hip deep in our Message Series on the Family, focusing on our family life and seeking to learn from the example of the Holy Family as we journey with them over these beautiful weeks of the Christmas season.

This week we find ourselves with Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist at the edge of the Jordan River. Not an overwhelming body of water, although scholars speculate it would have been wider and deeper two millennia ago; our Rancocas Creek is more formidable. Still because its water flowed, the Jordan was a verdant symbol of life in an arid land bereft of excess moisture… unlike Maple Shade ;).

Today begins the public life of Jesus. We designate all that precedes this moment, the hidden life. Mother Mary shared with Saint Luke certain sparse events. We can appreciate the quiet life at Nazareth: work, prayer and fulfillment of the law. But today before many of his cousin’s disciples, Jesus is baptized and commissioned. Those present hear the striking words “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:13). John objects to Jesus being baptized. He recognizes the disorder in the action: he who is clean ought to baptize he who needs cleansing, but we are so grateful for this moment.

This event opens up for us the horizon of salvation. Since the one who is holy enters the water, Jesus really makes the water holy, salvific and life-giving. It is no longer just a symbolic exterior cleansing accompanied by a strong desire for interior renewal. Now as a sacrament, it is the entryway to a life of grace and divine filiation. In other words, the baptized become the adopted daughters and sons of God. We become “sons in the Son,” as the Fathers teach. The Word made flesh opens up for us a new relationship with God our Father. The Fathers also teach: what He is by nature, we are by grace. Deep stuff. Think on that for a spell.

If indeed, we are sons in the Son, it follows that by our Baptism we are similarly commissioned. We are charged with the responsibility of apologia: “Always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) for the hope that lies within you,” (1 Peter 3:15).  While today we probably associate the Sacrament of Confirmation more closely with this responsibility, it is the duty of every Christian.

Yet in a particular and privileged way, the responsibility of handing on the precious gift of the Faith lies with husband and wife who have entered into matrimony with hope for a family life. Parents raise children, not only providing for their physical and emotional needs, but also nurturing and developing their spiritual or supernatural lives, what we have coined above “adopted sonship.”

The human person is made for God and will be restless until it rests in God. Hence the mission of family life is not only food and shelter, but teaching our children who their heavenly Father is, the way He guides us by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the beautiful gift of salvation offered by his Son and our brother on the cross. Families impart those realities to children as their greatest treasures, even family heirlooms. It is the sacred and ancient tradition of passing on the faith, from parent to child, all the way down through the ages.

Thus today, it is not only Jesus who is commissioned for public life. All the baptized are commissioned. And in a particular way parents, are reminded of the awesome responsibility of handing on the precious gift of faith to their children. I am reminded of the words from the Rite of Baptism: “Parents are the first teachers in matters of the faith, may they be the best teachers.” Amen.

Your Father in Christ,

Fr. Joel Wilson