This weekend marks the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord in the Catholic Church. As John called the people of Israel to make way for the coming of Christ, so too are we called to prepare ourselves to receive him.
The baptism was once celebrated as part of the Epiphany with the Adoration of the Magi and the Wedding at Cana because they represent Christ making his presence known to the world. However, the relationship between the Magi and Christ's birth led to that aspect of the feast taking precedence over the others, and the baptism was later given its own feast to be celebrated a week later.
Once moved, the feast became the transition between the Christmas season and the period of Ordinary Time before Lent. Just as Christ moved from his youth to his lifesaving mission, we are called to follow his journey in our own lives. We must continue to celebrate the joy that comes with his birth, but we must not forget the crucifixion that awaits.
However, we are beginning Ordinary Time and not Lent; we are not yet ready for Christ's sacrifice. During this time, we are called to reflect on how Christ's early ministry prepares us for salvation. The Gospel readings represent important moments of this time: the Wedding at Cana, his appearance at the synagogue at Nazareth, and the recruitment of Simon, Peter, James and John to become fishers of men.
These three events can be read as speaking to the mind, body and soul, revealing how Christ came to restore each of us through him and in him so that we may overcome our fallen state. He demonstrates his mastery over the physical and spiritual world so we can understand that through him all things were made. Only through our recognition of his glory can we appreciate the cost of his sacrifice and embrace most fully his love for us.
Each of these three events, marked by miracles, is its own continuation of the Epiphany, and every lesson and every word leads us to salvation. Although they are not as celebrated as Christ's birth or death, they are just as important. The Christmas season is over, but the joy of birth makes room for the ministry of love just as the innocent babe becomes the mighty savior.
Through incarnation, Christ took on the suffering that is man, but it is through baptism that he began the process of setting us free. As John the Baptist explained, Christ will baptize us with the Holy Spirit, allowing us to fully experience the Holy Trinity and to return to God once more. Now is the time when we are called to become disciples.
So feel free to take up New Year's resolutions and make promises for a new life, but remember that true life comes through Christ. Now is the time that we are called to begin again. Let us not forget the importance of this period of transition, and let us continue to make straight the path for Christ to enter into our lives.
Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.