With our celebration last Sunday of the Baptism of Jesus, we end the Christmas season and enter into the period of our Church calendar that we call “Ordinary Time.”
Of course, we all know that for the Christian, there is no time that is merely “ordinary.”
With the coming of Jesus, “ordinary” things have been transfigured. The world becomes, in some way, “sacramental” — a sign and pathway that brings us into the presence of God.
We see this in the Church’s Sacraments. Water gives us new birth as children of God. Bread and wine bring us into communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. Oil communicates God’s healing touch in our lives. Even human words are now filled with divine power, when spoken by men consecrated to God — This is my Body. I absolve you of your sins.
Our lives become different, too. We can now participate, through our ordinary lives, in what is truly “extra-ordinary” — the life of God.
This is the beautiful reality of our Christian lives. We are called to seek God and seek holiness in our ordinary lives. We are all called to be saints of ordinary time.
We need to see our whole lives in light of our own Baptism. In Jesus, we are a new creation. We are no longer only children of our mothers and fathers. Now we are children of God! As Jesus did, we can call God, “Our Father”!
The beautiful gift of Baptism makes our whole lives a way of salvation. A road that we are following to heaven. A road that we are walking together with Jesus Christ, who accompanies us as our Brother.
Our Baptism is a calling to follow Jesus. To work with him to transform this world into God’s kingdom. St. Peter said we are working for “the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
This coming week, our nation remembers two important days that remind us that we still have a long way to go in our struggle to achieve the values of God’s kingdom.
On Jan. 20, we remember Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we do each year, we will be holding a Mass at our Cathedral on Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. to celebrate Rev. King’s life and to pray for reconciliation and justice in our society.
Rev. King’s faith and eloquent words on behalf of social justice have long inspired me in my ministry. He was a courageous man who called America to live up to what he called “the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage” — the beautiful promises of liberty, equality, opportunity and justice for all.
So it is fitting that we remember Rev. King in the same week that we remember the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Jan. 22, 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in our land.
The taking of unborn life is a daily tragedy that denies our nation’s most sacred promises. And as we do each year, this Saturday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Cathedral, we will mark this solemn day in our nation’s history with a Requiem Mass for the unborn. I hope you will join us.
Jesus has given us a beautiful vision for a world in which everyone is welcomed and every life is treasured as a sacred gift from God. And each of us has a duty to defend life and to work for a culture of life.
In his apostolic exhortation, “Joy of the Gospel,” our Holy Father Pope Francis gives some beautiful words to reflect on this duty. He writes:
“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children — the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. … Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. …A human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. … Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”
So this week, let’s pray for our country and for one another. Let’s pray for the courage to love and care for the most defenseless and innocent among us. And let’s pray for the strength to defend human rights and work for justice.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary help us to always stand with those who are hurting and suffering.
Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx). Follow him at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.