Emmitsburg Council of Churches

The Baptism of the Lord

Remember it's still Christmas!

Father John J. Lombardi

"Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed 
by the renewal of your mind." Rm. 12:2

This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemn Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This Feast reminds us not only of the Lord Jesus' holiness and mission in life, but, by virtue of our own Baptism, the call of all people-men, women and children-to holiness: life in union with the Most Blessed Trinity!

Today I meditate on a couple of priest-friends who are leaving the Diocese and country for far-away places… Their stories are inspiring!

Fr. Edward Bayer, who is retiring at the age of 71, is "un- retiring" in another way: he is leaving us and moving to Papua New Guinea, (which is above Australia). Last Spring he read an article and plea from the Bishop there, on the need for professors in the seminary to train young men in the ways of priesthood. He is offering his expertise to them in moral theology; it seems he didn't want to sit around and think of "sheep without a shepherd". He prayed about the offer and, with his mandatory-upcoming retirement, he did decide to leave friends and family, country, culture and comforts to a "land down under".

Fr. McClean Cummings is leaving soon for Russia. This young priest (thirty-something) heard the call to help the Church there: in all of Russia there are only about 65 priests and three bishops. After visiting a few times and discerning, he decided to answer the call of needy people and move there. He will be learning Russian a few hours each day, saying Mass and hearing confessions and meeting the faithful. He strikingly said he felt a sense of zealousness in his priesthood to go and help, and also felt this amongst the clergy there.

Let us pray for these men. Both are answering the call of their baptism: to become an adopted son of Jesus Christ, to love and follow Him wherever he calls. They are more intimately, deeply and concretely hearing, discerning and responding to the Lord Jesus' call to discipleship…How about you?

This Sunday we contemplate Jesus Christ's Baptism: He did not need to be baptized. As God, He was both sinless and in need of nothing. He did so to sacramentally show us that He is the fulfillment of all Jewish and Hebrew prophesies, that He is the answer to the hopes of Israel's need for a Messiah, and also show us, concretely through His own baptism-how we must renounce sin and then become sons and daughters of God for missioning into the world, He was baptized.

Lest we downplay this Sacrament or Day, a story may help. A priest recently encouraged attendees at a Baptism that this is the most important sacrament- baptism engraces us to be sons and daughters of God, when we receive sanctifying grace and are called in our own way-where we are here and now ,to carry His word and graces into the world. 

At first this sounded a little overblown, but then the beauty and power of the sacrament became apparent through this priest's insight/-reminder: all of us are called to be holy, to become children of God and bearers of His message-ALL of us-Baptism is the moment when we leave being "strangers to God" and fully become "wed" to Him. As Vatican Council II has said, in "Gaudium et Spes", everyone is called to become holy in following Jesus Christ. 

Pope John Paul II said to thousands of lay persons in Rome for a conference on the theme of each person following Jesus, "Today, from this upper room in St. Peter's Square, a great prayer rises: Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth…"


  • How can I follow Jesus Christ more in my life? How can I do this daily, more concretely through prayer, service to others, and study of spiritual subjects, sacrifices? 
  • What are the obstacles to my growth in holiness-people, places or things-which impede or diminish my love for God and others? 
  • How can I concretely help my local church, pastor and leaders more?

A (real) CHRISTMAS STORY: a Catholic father was car pooling some children to school while playing Christmas music after Christmas Day. One of the young boys said innocently, "Christmas is over … why are you playing Christmas music?" The holy Dad said, "Christmas isn't over…Have the Three Kings come yet?  Has the Lord been baptized?". The boy responded, "Well, the 'commercial Christmas' is over." Our friendly Dad eloquently said, "Well, I'm Catholic."   Yes: remember your true identity-being a Catholic-Christian. Re-mind yourself of Rm 12:2: "Be not conformed to the world but transformed."

PAPAL DOCUMENT QUOTE: "The Role of the Family in the Modern World": "Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact. a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally would its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life. But, at the same time very family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous, renewing experience of 'reconciliation', that is, communion reestablished, unity restored." #22: By Pope John Paul St. Elizabeth Ann Seton-defend our families!

QUOTE of THE WEEK: "We shouldn't and cannot underestimate the power of the devil and why should we open the door (to occult and satanic practices)". St. Michael-defend us! "Jesus didn't send children out to be evangelizers." Dr. Raymond Guarendi, regarding the need to defend the innocence vulnerability of children.

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi