Sister Annette Pelletier, I.H.M.

Did you ever count how many times a day you wash your hands? Turn on a light? Greet someone? And of course … check your cell phone for messages?

These actions may seem inconsequential; however, they shape the way we use time. Rituals are significant. We need them. They shape us for they require virtually no thought or even intentionality. We just do them — out of habit. They make our lives efficient and predictable.

The same is true for the rituals we perform in the sacred liturgy and the sacraments. Actually, daily rituals of washing, eating, greeting, going from here to there (processing), are the “stuff” of liturgy!

Washing with water, for instance: we repeat the ritual of cleansing, renewing, refreshing, revitalizing our hands and faces multiple times each day. Similarly, we drink water in multiple forms: coffee, tea, sports’ drinks, etc. The prevalence and plenty of water in its many forms — rain, ice, sleet or snow — surrounds us, enfolds us, drenches us and often delights us. Oh how fascinating those so fragile flakes of snow!

Since the church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord this month (Jan. 12), let’s take time to reflect on the meaning of our baptism. This was the deepest of washing, cleansing, revitalizing, renewing of our entire beings.

If we were baptized as infants, this most mysterious, powerful, effective, and efficacious of washings is the gift of grace that keeps on giving. At that life-changing moment, as the chilly water trickled over our heads, we were cleansed, claimed and sealed, eventually to be sent into the world as other “Christs.”

Members of the family of God, we are a re-created as a unique and unrepeatable “imago dei” (image of God) – one-of-a-kind reflection of the magnificent beauty and brilliance of God’s own Son.

So the next time you wash your hands or face, reflect upon the mystery of who you really are. Yes, the excitement of Christmas and New Year is over. Now the liturgical year transitions gently from angels in Bethlehem singing, “Glory of God in the Highest” to the Jordan River where the young man — Jesus of Nazareth — humbly stands before his cousin, John, waiting to be baptized.

Then he hears his Father’s voice proclaim, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!”

Let’s take time this month each time we engage with water — be it a hand washing or a warm shower — that we listen to hear our Father’s voice echo in our hearts: “You, too, are my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3: 13-17).

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Sister Annette Pelletier, I.H.M., is chair of the Theology/Philosophy Department at Immaculata University.