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Dehonian Spirituality includes prayers and reflections based in spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon; it is published weekly by the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
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January 11, 2019
 

 
Fr. Leo John Dehon: founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart 
 

The baptism of the Savior is the last act of his long preparation of thirty years.  He already offered himself publicly to his Father in the circumcision and in the presentation in the Temple, he comes again to offer himself at the banks of the Jordan River.  John the Baptist, as a prophet commissioned by God, called the Israelites to the baptism of repentance, to prepare them for the reign of the Messiah.  
 
Jesus has no need of baptism, no more than he needed circumcision or the presentation and redemption in the Temple.  But he comes as victim and repairer.  He takes on himself the responsibility for our sins.  He wants to accomplish the ancient law completely, which was a law of purification and preparation.  He submits to baptism, not for himself, but for humanity, which is his kin.  
 
He is plunged into the water as a sign of death and resurrection.  His baptism symbolizes and announces his actual death and resurrection, while ours expresses only a spiritual death to sin and resurrection to the supernatural life.  St. John wants to oppose Jesus’ baptism, which has nothing to purify, but Jesus tells him that he must fulfill all righteousness, and by this he means the just expiation of our faults. 
 
By baptism, Jesus offers himself as victim; and his Father appoints him high priest of the new law.  Jesus will exercise his priesthood through his three years of preaching, by the sacrifice of Calvary, and by the Eucharistic sacrifice.  He is priest and victim; he will hand himself over to the executioner and will accept all immolations.  St. John understood everything: “Behold,” he said, “the Lamb of God, who comes [to offer himself and die] to take away all the sins of humanity” [cf. John 1:29].  At the same time, the anointing of the Holy Spirit claims our Lord as king and prophet, king and messiah.
 
God speaks: “This is my beloved Son,” he said [Matthew 3:17].  When God tells us, “This is my Son,” it means, this is your King and your Master: honor him, listen to him, and obey him. Jesus is now ready for his messianic and reparative mission.  Priest and lamb, he will walk toward the altar to immolate himself when the day comes. His divine Heart has no other goal.
 
What should be my feelings of gratitude and love?  In following Jesus, will I refuse to immolate myself for souls through a life of work and sacrifice?
 

The Year with the Sacred Heart, February 26: “The Baptism of the Savior”

 
 
 


Oblation: the daily practice of offering oneself to God's will
   
Before Vatican II, the reception of novices included the bestowal of a religious name. As with a new name, distinctive vesture, adopted at the time of postulancy, indicated a significant break from one’s previous life.  With Vatican II’s renewed appreciation of the sacrament of baptism, these initiation rituals were reconsidered.  Entrance into religious life was not something new, but rather a renewal and intensification of baptismal promises.
 
Fr. Dehon understands the sacrament of baptism to be an act of oblation because it is a mystical sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection.  In the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the sacrament of Confirmation is conferred immediately after Baptism and introduced with words that explain this mystical sharing.  “The promised strength of the Holy Spirit, which you are to receive, will make you more like Christ and help you to be witnesses to his suffering, death, and resurrection.  It will strengthen you to be active members of the Church and to build up the Body of Christ in faith and love.”
 
Union with Christ’s oblation and working to promote Christ’s reign of love was the intention of Fr. Dehon’s founding of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.  In contemporary terms, the Congregation believes that, “Rooted in our Baptism and Confirmation, our religious vocation is a gift especially given to glorify God and to witness to the primacy of the Kingdom” [Rule of Life13].  “In our manner of being and acting, by participating in constructing the earthly city and building up the Body of Christ, we should be an effective sign that it is the Kingdom of God and his justice which should be sought above all and in all” [Rule of Life38].
 
Like Jesus, Fr. Dehon suggests, the Priests of the Sacred Heart should have no other goal.  In following Jesus, they will immolate themselves for souls through a life of work and sacrifice

     
 
 
 

Reflection questions: seeds for understanding and growth
 
How do you understand baptism as an act of oblation?
 
How can you witness to Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection?
 
How can you actively build up the Body of Christ in faith and love?


     
 
 

Prayer: hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
 
This year, the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, January 13.  In your kindness throughout the coming week, please pray that all Christians will renew daily, in word and deed, their baptismal promises.  You may find helpful the following Act of Oblation from the Prayer Book of the Priests of the Sacred Heart in the United States.
 
Father,
almighty and all-loving God,
your Son, Jesus Christ, has loved us
and has offered himself 
as an atonement for sin
on the altar of the cross.
We have been cleansed in the water
that flowed from his side.
 
By baptism
we have been buried with Christ,
so that just as Christ was raised from the dead,
we also may walk in newness of life.
Help us to put to death
the evil that is still in us:
our selfishness,
our willfulness,
and our fear of surrender to you.
 
Free us
so that we may serve you as a living sacrifice.
Grant us this grace through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who together with you and the Holy Spirit,
lives and reigns for ever.
 
Amen.
 
 
     

 
The backstory
 
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update. 

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The Dehonian Spirituality updates are edited by David Schimmel, U.S. Province director of Dehonian Associates. Questions or comments for David? 
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