Recently, I was searching for some background information on St. John Neumann, the bishop of Philadelphia in the 1850’s who labored to open many Parishes and Catholic Schools to serve the growing immigrant population and for whom the Neumann Centers on college campuses are named. Specifically, I wanted to know more about the pope and the Church’s attitude toward America at that time. What I stumbled upon, literarily, was an NPR Fresh Air interview with the author of a recent book about the Pope at that time, Pius IX. The author is Jewish and has some interesting perspectives but one comment caught my ear especially. He said it gives him “the chills” to hear many Americans referring to “secularism” as the enemy and wanting to bring God back into schools and government.
In today’s Gospel we hear Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ Baptism and, if we look carefully, can see a beginning, an end and a new beginning. It is the beginning of Christ’s public ministry, the end of John’s ministry, and a new beginning for the whole world as we hear the Father proclaim, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is the pivot point of all history. Everything before we know as BC (Before Christ) and everything afterward is referred to as AD (Anno Domini—the year of the Lord). Yes, God is the Lord of History but our modern day secularism wants to push Him aside by replacing the BC/AD designations with BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (the Common Era).
We don’t need a Medieval style Theocracy but we do need to put God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—first in our lives. This is the new beginning that Baptism affords each and every person. God is #1… everything else is #10!