Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today we pass from the divine mysteries of the Childhood of Our Lord into the beginning of His public Ministry. It came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
The Gospel for today tells us that there went out unto John the Baptist "all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins."
Picture in your mind the figure of Our Lord, standing with that multitude waiting to be baptized. He identified Himself with the crowd so completely that He was unrecognized. He was only one in a crowd. Then remember who He was. He was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Angels adored Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, singing Holy, Holy, Holy, to the Blessed Trinity.
He is the Word made Flesh, for us men and for our salvation. By the operation of the Holy Ghost, He was made very man, of the substance of the Virgin-Mary His mother; and that without spot of sin. Divine, human, sinless. This is the Person who identified Himself with a multitude confessing their sins, waiting for John's baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And He, this Person, was baptized of John.
Picture the multitude, unaware of all this. The world knew Him not. Heaven could not restrain itself. Straightway coming up out of the water He saw the heavens opened, and the spirit, like a dove, descending upon Him: and there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The heavens opened at His Nativity, and angels sang, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. The heavens opened at His baptism. The heavens opened at His victory in the desert, for the silent ministry of Angels. The heavens opened at His agony in the Garden, again for the silent ministry of Angels. The heavens opened at His Ascension for the voice of an angel announcing that He shall so come in like manner as the Apostles had seen Him go. He is truly God. He is perfectly man. There are in Him two distinct natures, the divine and the human. He is only one Person.
A great, accredited master and teacher of the spiritual life has said, "Christ is God and man. The faithful soul does not only confess the Divinity of Jesus but wills also to honour His Sacred Humanity. St. Teresa considered it a grave error to neglect the honor due to the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord. "We are not angels," she said, "we have a body. In the midst of business, of persecutions, of trials, in times of dryness, Christ is our best Friend. We see Him like ourselves: we contemplate Him in infirmity, in suffering. It is very advantageous for us, as long as we are in this life, to consider God-made-Man."
"It is quite evident to me," continues St. Teresa, "that in order to please God, and receive great graces from Him, it is needful, and such is His will, that they should pass through the hands of this Sacred Humanity, wherein, as He Himself declared, He was well pleased. I have seen a number of times that this is the door whereby we must enter if we wish His Majesty to reveal high secrets to us. One walks safely along this path."
Our Lord said to His disciples, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; but I have called you friends." What He said to His first disciples, He says to all His disciples. The test of the reality of our discipleship is the sincerity of our friendship with Our Lord. No one who has had even one conscious contact with the friendship He offers can resist it. The longer one lives the more dependant one becomes upon it, and the more one realizes that the attraction and the satisfaction of the sacramental life is the friendship of Our Lord in His Sacred Humanity.
In experiences in penitence, in temptation, in sorrow, in disappointment, in discouragement, in loneliness, in sickness, and as we shall some day know, in dying, there is only one Person who, because He is God-Man, is able not only to satisfy insistant human longing, but to go beyond what has ever been imagined or deserved.
Affectionately in Our Lord,