Sunday, January 11, 2015

Birth to Rebirth

Today we mark the transition; we conclude Christmas and begin Ordinary Time, a translation of tempus per annum that I hate because it seems demeaning. In God, nothing is ordinary. We are called to live not in ordinary time but God's time.

It may seem strange to some people that we have jumped three decades from Jesus's birth to his baptism, but this is a reminder that for us what matters is God's time. It is all part of God's plan.

As a matter of fact if you look closely you will see that Christmas, Baptism of the Lord, and Jesus's first miracle are all linked.

At Christmas we celebrate the miracle of birth, God incarnate. Today we celebrate the gift of the sacrament of Baptism, rebirth. Here it is worth stopping to recall that Jesus's baptism was radically different from our own. In our baptism we are transformed, not simply forgiven for our sins but reborn. If anyone asks you are you a born again Christian, the answer is yes.

At the Jordan, the opposite happened the water didn't change Jesus, Jesus changed the water. He gave to ordinary water the power to become the instrument of God's grace. From that moment on any person with the intention to baptize could take water and with the invocation of the Trinity (as instructed in Matthew's gospel) could give a person a new life, an eternal life.
Baptism is the only sacrament which any person can validly celebrate.

To drive home the point that Jesus changed the water not the other way around, he then goes to Cana and at a wedding feast visibly transformed water into wine. His first miracle not only established marriage as a sacrament but explains more fully what happens in the first sacrament. He doesn't just throw a little bleach in the water to purify it, he radically transforms it. He makes it something new.

Our prayer over the white garment in baptism says it clearly:

You have become a new creation,
You have clothed yourself in Christ.
See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity....

Birth to rebirth, water to wine
Rebirth and total transformation

Today as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord let us walk through this day reflecting on this new life we have been given, on the last day of Christmas, the ultimate Christmas present.