The Baptism of Christ. Veronese (Paolo Caliari). c. 1550-60
“You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.” Thus, the voice of the Father inaugurated the public ministry of Jesus Christ at his baptism in the Jordan. How appropriate to celebrate this great solemnity during the month of January. For just as Jesus lived his ministry in a public way, we members of the church are called to do likewise. As I consider the many opportunities for public awareness and action, it is almost a litany.
Beginning with the first day of the month, which honors Mary the mother of God, we joined with the Pope Francis in the world day of prayer for peace. This year Pope Francis called us to overcome indifference and to take positive steps to promote peace in our world.
Let me mention a few of those positive steps that I will be taking. Last Saturday, we gathered as a church to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We recommitted ourselves to the dignity of every human being, beginning with a prayer for racial harmony and justice that described every human person as created in God’s image and likeness, moving us to judge people “…not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Each of us looked into our hearts to reclaim that love and respect for every human being and to promote responsible behavior.
This week also marks the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, a court action that withdrew protection for innocent children in the womb of their mothers. We gathered on Sunday at St. Martin of Tours Church for the annual Memorial Mass for Life, and on Thursday I will join over 500 faithful from Louisville at a special Mass in Washington, D.C. at Holy Rosary Church prior to the annual March for life. How fitting it is that as we stand for life and for a change in our public policy as a nation, this was also the occasion for the annual collection to support “Opportunities for Life,” a ministry of outreach supported by the four Kentucky dioceses, which includes a telephone hotline, for pregnant women in need and their families.
I will remain in Washington, D.C. until Saturday evening to celebrate Mass for the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. This conference brings together those involved in social ministry from all parts of the country. These individuals are deeply committed to defending life and addressing all forms of destitution, including the physical deprivations of inadequate food, housing, work, and education. While Jesus calls us to be poor, physical destitution is an affront to the dignity of the human person. This gathering is a fitting component of this litany of public good in the name of Jesus Christ.
Finally, I want to include in this litany the outreach to those who feel distant from Christ and His Church. In this Year of Mercy, we are reaching out to those individuals through the program called the Catholic Connection. Many of the faithful have lovingly identified someone who might welcome an outreach calling them back to the love of Christ. I have sent letters to all those who have been identified and have invited them to special listening sessions that will occur during the month of February. (See www.archlou.org/listening for the dates of the listening sessions.) I eagerly await the opportunity to participate in two of these sessions.
January is surely a month of action for the Lord Jesus. There is a place for each one of us in this litany of public good. Recalling the beginning of his public ministry with the baptism in the Jordan River, we recall our baptismal call to be joined in action to the Lord Jesus and to do so with courageous and willing hearts. Our faith cannot simply remain in the sanctuary but must also be realized in the marketplace and the public square. We make public our faith by our prayer and work for peace, by our stand for the protection and care of human life from conception to natural death, by our collaboration for racial harmony and justice, and by our reaching out to welcome those whose hearts are distant from Christ. May this great litany be a prayer heard by our heavenly father through his son Jesus Christ.