Baptism of the Lord

January 10th, 2016
Father Stéphane Pouliot

The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of God with us, and the conclusion of the Christmas season, the baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist, expresses this beautifully. Let me help you to picture the scene in your minds as if you are watching it happen live while knowing with your 21st century minds that Jesus is God made man.

John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, is preaching by the Jordan river and is baptizing those who come to him as an act of repentance, turning away from their sins, and committing themselves to following God’s commandments in order to be in a right relationship with Him.

So far so good, Jesus is not a sinner, and therefore could easily excuse himself from John the Baptist’ meaningful ritual. After all, He does not need it in any way. But not needing something is not what determines what Jesus does. Jesus is the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and His mission is centered on showing the Father’s heart to sinners who have been deceived into distrusting God.
John the Baptist knows that he is preparing the way for the Messiah, and no doubt, his mother Elizabeth has revealed to him that Jesus his cousin, is the Lord. Had she not said to Mary decades earlier: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me” (Luke 1:43)?

By the Jordan River, John the Baptist is baptizing the sinners who repent and preaching day in and day out that “one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). The people are growing restless. Who is coming? It must be the Messiah. His arrival must be imminent, for there is such urgency in John the Baptist’s voice.

Jesus is not going to disappoint the feverish expectation. He intends to come to the Jordan River himself and reveal to those who have just been baptized that He is God with us. How will He do that? Shall we expect a spectacular entry, fireworks, and ominous music to announce his coming? No, it is not the way of the Lord.

Surprisingly, Jesus is baptized last, going down to the River after the very last sinner has been baptized. Saint Luke wrote: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized…” (Luke 3:21) He, the sinless one, “the Grace of God”, appears, as Titus tells us in today’s second Scripture reading, “bringing salvation to all… He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11,14).

“The last shall be first, and the first shall be last” (cf. Matthew 20:16), as He himself exemplifies. He, the last one in the lineup of those going down into the Jordan for baptism is the first to be sinless.

He the first to rise from the dead will first take upon himself every sin which has been repented from and obey His Father to the point of death and death on a Cross (cf. Philippians 2:8).
Watch him. Jesus does everything with a purpose. He comes last in a lineup of repenting sinners (cf. Luke 3:21). He waits until the crowd that day has gone through the holy door of mercy represented here by the Jordan River. The last to line up behind repenting sinners is now manifested as the first, our Great God and Saviour. He comes last of all the baptized in the Jordan to leave no one behind. He comes last to save them all.

More than a thousand years before Jesus came to the Jordan, Joshuah led the Israelites across the Jordan to leave behind the sinful mentality which caused their 40 years of wandering in the desert.

Now the new Joshuah, Yeshua, Jesus, is showing up at the Jordan, revealing the glory of the Lord by saving the sinners who have dared to clear a highway across the desert of their wandering hearts for Him, their God (cf. saiah 40:3-5).

And the Merciful Father approves of Jesus’ choice to line up behind those who have “renounced impiety and worldly passions and in the present age, (pledged themselves) to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, (waiting) for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ (cf. Titus 1:12-13).

Adam and Eve once distrusted and hid from God, afraid and ashamed after their tragic act of distrust. Now thousands and thousands of years later, one who in His humanity shares their blood, hears the voice Adam and Eve were longing to hear once again say: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

In an instant, the Holy Spirit’s fire burns away the lie of Satan (cf. Luke 3:16). God does not keep the best away from us as Adam and Eve once painfully regretted believing (cf. Genesis 3:5).

Rather, God gives us his best in giving us his only begotten Son so that we may not perish but have eternal life (cf. John 3:16).

From now on, Jesus has made it possible for us to be restored to the dignity of sons and daughters of God in the sacrament of baptism.

We should all be celebrating the day of our baptism in such a festive way that those who have forgotten their baptism may once again return to an intimate relationship with their Heavenly Father.

We should all be digging out of its box the copy of our baptismal certificate to memorize the date of our redemption. We should inquire to our family members as to where we were baptized and phone the church in which we were baptized to obtain the date of the day of our divine restoration. We should be so excited to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:19) that any unbaptized we meet would start desiring baptism because of the joy of our belonging to the Holy Trinity.
To all of you who have joined us today, wandering into this church in search of meaning, and to all those who begin to see the glory of the Lord, I invite you to close your eyes and join me in this prayer:

“Jesus, I surrender to You. I thank You that Your life reveals to me the home that my heart is searching for. Following You, my heart is stirred with passion to see the Father, to know Him as You do. Because of You, God is my Father… I am grateful beyond words that You have come to reveal Him to me.”1

1 Neal Lozano with Matthew Lozano, “Abba’s Heart – Finding Our Way Back to the Father’s Delight”, Chosen, 2015, p.84-85.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.