Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

February 7, 2010

Today, as I mentioned earlier, we have the special joy of welcoming a new member into the mystical body of Christ, the Church.  In just a few moments, when Ashley Jordyn is baptized, she will begin to share in the divine life of God.  She will become a Temple of the Holy Spirit.  Today is the beginning of Ashley‘s walk with the Lord.  It is a journey that will last throughout her life and for all eternity.  For the rest of her life, she will go on walking with the Lord, day by day; each day drawing nearer to her eternal destiny, which is to be forever with God in Heaven.

The Lord commanded His Apostles to go out and baptize all nations, and teach them all that He has commanded them.  Today we fulfill the first part of the Lord’s command for Ashley.   Teaching her all the Jesus commanded will be a process that will be on-going for the next several years.  Dear parents, today you are promising to teach Ashley the faith.  You are the first teachers of the faith for your children.  Children learn by watching and imitating their parents.  And you, Godparents, today you are promising to assist the parents in their duty.  The whole community is here to assist in that duty, of course, but the family is the first and most important place where children learn about God.

Whenever we witness a Baptism, we should call to mind our own baptism.  We were all incorporated into the mystical body of Christ on the day of our Baptism.  Promises were made on our behalf, or if we were old enough, we ourselves made those promises.  We promised to reject sin and evil and follow the Lord.  As we call those promises to mind, we can examine ourselves and ask if we have lived up to those promises.  We all fall short of the glory of God, of course.  Scripture reminds us that even the just person falls seven times a day.

Baptism is a good reminder of how much God wants to wash away our sins and pour His grace, His very life, into our souls.  And make no mistake about it: it is not an accident that we are Catholics.  The Lord has called each and every one of us here.  It is not merely because we were born and raised in the Faith; for converts, it is not that they simply decided to become Catholic: The Lord calls each one of us just like He called Saint Peter in the Gospel today.

Saint Peter was a fisherman.  He was not a rabbi; he worked a regular job.  Jesus came to him while he was doing his day-to-day work: washing and mending his nets.  When the Lord revealed Himself to Peter, through the miraculous catch of fish, Peter immediately recognized his own unworthiness to even be in the presence of the Lord.  He fell down on his knees and told the Lord to leave him for he was a sinful man.  Jesus knew Peter, better than Peter even knew himself, and Jesus chose him.  Jesus called Peter and he responded.  When Jesus called, Peter left everything and followed Him; and as a result, God did great things through him.

Jesus Christ calls each and every one of us here.  We are not here by accident.  The Lord is working in the lives of each and every one here.  It is not we who have chosen the Lord: He has chosen us.  He wants us to follow Him; He wants us to put Him first in our lives.  He wants each one of us to love Him with our whole heart.  It doesn’t matter what obstacles to personal holiness you may think exist in your life.  Jesus Christ is calling each and every one of us to love Him with all that we are and with all our strength.  Each and every one of us is called to be a Saint.

And a Saint is not just someone who kneels in a monastery all day.  Saints are those who love God with their whole hearts, and God fills their hearts with His life and His love and His joy and they, then, take that joy and that life and that love out into the world and share it with others.  When I say that we are all called to be Saints, I am not saying that we are all called to run away from the world and hide; I am saying that we are all called to live our lives for God.  And God wants us all to be happy.  God created us to be happy.  Ultimately, He wants us to be happy with Him forever in Heaven, yes, but He wants us to be happy even in this life even now.

True happiness is only found by giving our whole heart to God and by doing His will.  It sounds contradictory to our ears, our culture tells us the opposite.  Our culture says that happiness is being able to do whatever I want.  But those who do whatever they want and have everything they want still, in the long run, find that they are unhappy.  The more selfish, and greedy, and sinful we are the less happy we will be.  Sin can give immediate gratification, but it cannot ever satisfy our hearts.  Our hearts can be only be satisfied by God alone.

How do we do God’s will?  What is His will for me?  God’s will for you is for you to live your vocation faithfully and with love.  Do everything to the best of your ability and do everything for love of God.  Live out the promises made at your Baptism: reject Satan and all his works and empty promises and do all you can to be a faithful son or daughter of God.  Pascal once said that if you want to be a good Christian, do what good Christians do and you will become one.  We should do everything in our power to rid ourselves of sin; we should make frequent use of the Sacraments, and strive to do everything that we do out of love.  We also need to ask God for the grace to be faithful and to love as we ought, and trust that He will give us the grace if only we ask for it.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us as we renew our baptismal promises, to truly reject sin and live in the freedom of the children of God.  Make of our hearts an acceptable dwelling place for Your Holy Spirit.  Fill us with Your life, Your love, and Your joy.  Help us to bear witness to you in the world.  Help us to love You above all things and help us to love others as You want us to.  Amen.

Baptism of the Lord 2010

January 10, 2010

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.  Strictly speaking, the Lord did not need to be baptized, of course.  Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  He was perfectly without sin and therefore had no need to be baptized.  In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear that Saint John the Baptist protests when the Lord comes to Him to be baptized.  The Lord says that it is fitting for Him to fulfill all righteousness.  In other words, even though He is without sin, He allows Himself to be baptized as an example for us.  The Christian rite of Baptism has a beautiful prayer which says that the waters of Baptism were sanctified by Christ when He was baptized.

We also know that Saint John’s baptism differed from Christian Baptism.  Saint John the Baptist himself says that he only baptizes with water, but One is coming Who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  The baptism that Saint John was administering was only a sign of repentance.  The Baptism that we receive into Christ is not a mere sign of repentance; it really takes our sin away.

After Christ is baptized, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the voice of the Father is heard saying that He is well pleased with His Son.  Through our Baptism, we become sons and daughters of God.  When someone is baptized, the Holy Spirit descends to dwell within his or her soul; the newly baptized person becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Another thing that happened at our Baptism is that we all became members of the mystical body of Christ.  In Baptism, we die and rise with Christ.  In Baptism, we receive a mark on our souls that cannot be removed and that mark is a sign that we belong to Jesus Christ.  When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death and Resurrection of Christ, and as a result we share in His threefold office of Priest, Prophet and King.  As we are united and conformed to Christ in our Baptism, we are given a share in these three offices.

A priest is someone who is set apart to serve God.  The way that a priest serves God is by offering sacrifice.  The sacrifice that Jesus made to God was the sacrifice of Himself upon the Cross.  By virtue of our Baptism, we are all a priestly people; we are all set apart to serve the Lord and to offer sacrifice to God.  Each and every one of us is called to imitate Jesus and offer the gift of ourselves to God.  Just as He offered Himself upon the Cross, so too we are to offer ourselves up to God.  Jesus said that if we would be His disciples, we have to take up our cross and follow Him.  We can all offer to God our daily work, our sufferings, our private prayers, our thoughts, our joys, our anxieties.  We are all called to imitate Jesus Christ and offer everything we have and all that we are back to God.  That is what it means to love God with all our minds, all our hearts, and all our strength.

A prophet is one who announces God’s message to others.  Jesus fully reveals God to us: He reveals God by His words, by His actions, ultimately by His death.  By dying on the Cross, He shows us the depth of God’s love for us.  We too are called to share in the prophetic mission of Christ.  We are called to share the Good News that God has sent us a Savior.  That does not mean that we need to preach to everyone that we meet; but Scripture does say that we are always to be ready to give reasons for the hope that is within us.  (1 Peter 3:15)  We preach loudest by our actions.

Finally, we know that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He reigns in Heaven at the right hand of the Father.  While on earth, however, He said that He did not come to be served, but to serve.  We are destined to reign forever with Christ in Heaven.  Yet while we are on this earth, we must follow the example that He gave to us.  Through Baptism, we have become a royal priestly people; but that does not mean that we are to think ourselves better than others.  Christ is Our King and yet He washed the feet of His disciples.  If we wish to reign with Him in Heaven, we have to follow the example that He set for us while on earth.  We have to love one another as He has loved us.

Let us ask Our Lord to give us the grace that we need to live out these three offices ever more faithfully: Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of our Faith; we ask you to help us to conform our hearts ever more completely to Yours.  Help us, Lord, to live out faithfully the mission that we have received at our Baptism.  May we live out the offices that we have received in a way that is most pleasing to You.  Amen.

Solemnity of Christ the King (B)

November 24, 2009

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King and within the context of our Mass we are going to celebrate the baptism of Lauren Gabrielle.  Celebrating Baptism within the context of Mass helps all of us to call to mind our own baptisms and what Baptism means to each and every one of us.

Baptism is a Sacrament.  The classic definition of a Sacrament is that a Sacrament is: “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to convey grace”.  Christ instituted the Sacrament of Baptism when He sent the Apostles out to the ends of the earth to teach all that He commanded and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Today, the first part of Christ’s command will be completed for Lauren; the second part, to teach all that Christ commanded, will take a lifetime.  We all go on learning and deepening our understanding of what Christ taught and Who He IS.

Christ instituted baptism and there are two parts: the part we will see and the part that we cannot see.  In just a few moments, we will all witness the Baptism of Lauren Gabrielle.  We will be able to see water poured over her head; we will hear the name of the Trinity invoked over her.  That is the outward sign, but there is more to baptism than the mere external signs; the outward signs effect supernatural graces that they signify.

Water has many uses.  Two of the most important uses are for washing and for drinking.  We use water to wash things everyday.  The first supernatural effect of Baptism is that it cleanses our souls of all stain of original sin which we were all born with.  Water also gives life.  Without water, human beings cannot live for very long.  The second supernatural effect of baptism is that supernatural life is infused into the soul.  Each of us began to share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity at our baptism.  By our baptism we were made children of God, our bodies were made temples of the Holy Spirit.  Through baptism we are elevated to a new status: we become adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ.

Baptism conforms us in a very special way to Jesus Christ.  Saint Paul says that in baptism, we die to sin and rise with Christ.  Immediately following our Baptism, we were all anointed with sacred chrism.  This anointing is a reminder that just as Jesus Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so we all share in those three offices by virtue of our baptism.

We are a royal priestly people, set apart by God, to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.  Prophets announced God’s message to others: we too are called to bear witness in the world.  A priest is one set apart to offer sacrifice and pray on behalf of others.  Every single baptized person is supposed to offer sacrifice: we are all called to offer ourselves to God.  God gave us everything that we have; there isn’t anything that we have that we have not received, Saint Paul says.  There is a difference between ordained priests and the priesthood that we all share in as a result of our baptism, but through Christ, we all have access to God and we can all offer ourselves to Him.  We are set apart by our baptism.  As a result of our baptism, we have entered into a very special relationship with God: we are His children.  We can ask Him for things; we can intercede on behalf of others in need of prayer.

Finally, we are a royal people.  Christ is King and through baptism, we share in that kingship.  And what does Christ’s kingship look like?  While on earth, He taught us that He came to serve, not to be served.  To serve Christ, and others for love of Him, is to reign.  In Heaven, we will reign with Him; we will go on for all eternity sharing in the divine life of the Holy Trinity.  Here on earth, we are to follow the example of our divine head: we are to take up our cross and follow the Lord.  In Heaven, Our Lord has a crown of glory; while here on earth, His crown was made of thorns.

All who are baptized share in these three offices; we receive them on the day of our baptism and yet we continue to grow into them and we all are to strive to fulfill them ever more faithfully.  Dear parents and godparents of Lauren, today you are answering on behalf of Lauren.  You are making promises on her behalf, and it is your responsibility to help her learn about her faith and learn to fulfill the offices that we have just been reflecting upon.  The Church teaches us that the parents are the first teachers of the faith to their children.  Godparents are to assist the parents in fulfilling that duty.  Children learn from imitating their parents.  It is by watching you and imitating you that Lauren will learn to speak and how to do all sorts of other things.  It is also by your example that she will learn about the importance of our Catholic Faith.  The parish family is here to support you in carrying out that role, but the ultimate responsibility is yours.  May God bless you and strengthen you with His grace as you take on these responsibilities.