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1 Epiphany, Year C: Universal

SUNDAY’S READINGS | The Baptism of Our Lord, January 9, 2022

Isa. 43:1-7
Ps. 29
Acts 8:14-17
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

The Feast of the Epiphany, the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is just three days past, occurring as it always does on January 6. We continue with that theme, holding before our mind’s eye and in all the affections of our hearts the miracle of our inclusion in the universal mission of Christ. Christ came to his own. He lived for all, died for all, rose for all, and ascended into heaven bearing our human nature in the unity of his divine person. In the very first days of the Church, however, this was not fully known. The first Christians were all Jews.

We associate the extension of the Church’s mission beyond Judaism with St. Paul. Even before Paul, however, there were indications that the resurrected Christ would be known throughout the world. “Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Word of God, they sent Peter and James to join them” (Acts 8:14). Samaria, home to the Samaritans who practiced what the Jews considered a corrupted form of Judaism and for which the Jews despised them, accepted the Word of God. Peter and James found that the Samaritans were baptized in the name of Jesus but had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Laying hands upon them and praying for them, Peter and James conferred the Holy Spirit upon them, affirming this new extension of the gospel. The Good News of the Resurrected Christ would not be contained.

The prophet Isaiah promises that Jews dispersed among foreign nations will return to Jerusalem, and thus gives a proleptic picture of the new humanity. “He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you … I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isa. 43:1). We hear Christ speaking in these words. “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you … I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up,’ and to the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made’” (Isa. 43:4-7).

Living in Christ, we sense the presence of beauty and power. “Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:1-2). Beauty is vested with joy. “He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox” (Ps. 29:6). Power resounds in the voice of the Lord. “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees, splits the flames of fire, makes the oak trees writhe, and strips the forest bare.” The voice of the Lord is powerful, seemingly destructive, because something new is coming into being. And yet “The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace” (Ps. 29:11). Gathered into Christ, we are a part of what is astoundingly beautiful and joyful, powerful and imbued with peace.”

What then are we to say about the unquenchable fire? John the Baptist says of Jesus, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). Fear, and fear not. We are not one or the other but both. We must be purified for beauty, joy, power, and peace. “When you walk through fire, you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isa. 43:2)

Look It Up: Galatians 3:27-28

Think About It: One in Christ Jesus


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