January 6, 1999

[ Shorter version ]

Beloved in Jesus Christ,

Soon we will celebrate again the great Feast of Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan.

The Jordan River has always had a special place in the lives of the people of God. It was the river in which Christ was baptized, and the river through which Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

Before Joshua crossed the Jordan, the Lord commanded him to send the ark of the covenant into the waters first. The Holy Ark -the symbol of God's abiding presence with His people- would lead the way. The people were not to protect and shield the Ark; the Ark would protect them, would shield them, would guide them. The ark shall go first, the Lord said, "so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before" (Joshua 3:4).

"You have not passed this way before." For this reason, Christ went down before us into the waters of Baptism, to lead us and guide us through His death into the Resurrection and the eternal Reign of God.

"You have not passed this way before." These words hold true for us as we look towards a New Year, and as we stand on the threshold of a new millenium. And yet we go forward in faith, knowing that the Lord our God will once again go before us, to protect us, to guide us, and to bring us His peace and grace.

To you and yours, I wish all the blessings of the Holy Feast of the Epiphany, and a Happy, Healthy, and Holy New Year.

[ January 6, 1999 ]