Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! It’s an awe-inspiring feast. Today all waters were sanctified as Jesus was submerged into the Jordan river at the hands of John the Baptist, preparing the way for our sacramental baptism “by water and the Spirit” (Jn. 3:5) through which we are washed clean of sin, reborn as sons and daughters of God, and made sanctuaries of the Most High Three. Today, over the Jordan, heaven was “torn open” (Mk. 1:10) and divine life flooded the earth (Ez. 47), as it would do again from the side of the dead Christ on the Cross (Jn. 19:34) and on the morning of Pentecost (Acts 2:2). And as it does at our own baptism (Jn. 7:38).
Back in 1988, I was introduced to a priest in Massachusetts who had the gift of healing, and also suffered from crippling arthritis. By his prayer, a dear childhood family friend was completely healed of debilitating heart disease. He was truly a wounded healer, a priest-victim. I’ll never forget when he said to me, “Just like St. Bernadette, the spring is not for me.” No greater love.
I will never forget once when I attended a Sunday Mass at his parish and he had an infant baptism during the celebration. He was in so much pain that day he celebrated Mass from a wheelchair, but after he had baptized the baby he worked his way off the wheelchair and touched his right knee to the ground as he faced the mother holding the child. He then said very loudly, “Behold the temple of the Trinity” and knelt in silence for about 30 seconds before returning to his wheelchair.
You could have heard a pin drop, but the point was stunningly clear to all there. What baptism does is make us into the unthinkable — a holy of holies, in whom dwells the all-holy God. His presence in the Jerusalem Temple evoked holy fear and awe, yet … that is who we have become in Christ (1 Cor. 6:19). Attending to this Presence within, this moment, we could pray rightly:
Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee,
Truly present underneath these veils:
All my heart subdues itself before Thee,
Since it all before Thee faints and fails.
Every year, to meditate on these mysteries, I play and pray with this surreptitious recording I made five years ago of my wife and Cornelius “CC” Celestine practicing Wade in the Water in a stairwell together just before Mass began on this very Feast. It fills my heart with joy every time I hear her sing, and it “troubles” the healing waters that stir within me (Jn. 5:7), even now as I write. I hope this Feast does the same for you this day…