By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
This past weekend we celebrated the Baptism of the Lord, the culmination of the Christmas season when the voice of our loving God resounded over the Jordan River after the baptism of his beloved Son who stood as one with his Father in heaven, bathed in the light of the hovering Holy Spirit. In that moment at the outset of Jesus’ public ministry, the loving unity of the Holy Trinity was proclaimed for all to hear.
Indeed, “God is love.” God the Father’s voice was the reassurance for all of the voices of the patriarchs and prophets, kings and suffering servants yearning for the Messiah over centuries. When the fullness of time unfolded, we heard the voices of the angels, shepherds and magi, the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John our beloved evangelists, and finally the testimony of John the Baptist, “behold the Lamb of God.”
Through faith and baptism, we are center stage in this divine drama. On the one hand this is largely evident when we raise up our voices in prayer, especially at Mass. When we choose to keep holy the “Lord’s Day” and gather in our churches as the Body of Christ, by God’s grace; we can recognize that we too are God’s beloved children, sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
Remember the Lord’s assurance, that “the least born into the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist” and all who preceded him. The heavens were opened at the moment of Jesus’ baptism and remain permanently so in his death and resurrection so that the glory of God will shine forever on the face of Jesus Christ.
The star of faith enlightens our minds and hearts to know that love is our origin, love is our constant calling, and love is our fulfillment in heaven. The church by its very nature is the sacrament of salvation pointing the way to the heavens for all the world to see.
On the other hand, standing upon the cornerstone of faith in the divine drama, all the baptized, grafted onto to the vine are intended, by God’s design and grace, to live as God’s beloved in the world. The church throughout the world and on the local level is a living body where the least, as St. Paul eloquently wrote, are given special attention. Our faith in Jesus Christ is deeply personal and at the same time, never individualistic. Grafted on the vine of Jesus Christ, we are members of his body with different gifts, ministries and works for the common good beginning at home, in the church and in the world.
As you turn the pages of this edition of the Mississippi Catholic, I invite you to do so through the lens of our unity with the Holy Trinity and the bond that is established with one another through faith and baptism. For example, the Catholic Service Appeal is very balanced in its structure and purpose. Each year your generosity strengthens the Body of Christ throughout the Diocese of Jackson through many ministries, while also serving many on the margins of our communities through Catholic Charities who may never be able reciprocate in turn. Thus, our Service Appeal is genuinely Catholic.
The Synod on Synodality that is well underway in the Diocese of Jackson and in the church throughout the world is an extraordinary way to raise up our voices in prayer and dialogue. Although gatherings will occur in our parishes and other ministries at different times throughout February, the prayer and scriptures passages that guide these encounters will be the same for everyone, a visible sign of the unity that the Lord intends, and an opportunity to strengthen this bond under the hovering presence of the Holy Spirit and the loving gaze of our God.
Lastly, we can understand the annual diocesan report through the lens of this bond of unity. There are many moving parts in a complex organization that must be managed, and the Diocese of Jackson is no different in this respect. Yet, on the deeper level we pray to never forget who we are so that all our daily labor in support of our ministries is not a matter of maintenance, but truly of mission.
We are God’s children now, members of the body of the Beloved Son of God, encouraging one another to be fully alive with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. May our voices and actions point the way for our struggling and suffering world.
All that we do as the Catholic Diocese of Jackson is the work of our faith and baptism in the power of the Holy Trinity.