Monday, January 8, 2018

The Baptism of the Lord

Readings of the day: RB 1:1-5 ‘The Kinds of Monks’
Mass: Isaiah 42:1-4 6-7 or Isaiah 55:1-11 or Acts 10:34-38 or 1 John 5:1-9; Resp. Psalm 29 or Isaiah 12; Mark 1:7-11

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.
He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
(Acts 10:38)

I was inspired by something I learned about and from Pope St John Paul II. In G. Weigel’s biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, he recounts the Pope’s first papal pilgrimage to Poland, June 1979. ‘When the Holy Father arrived in his hometown of Wadowice, his first stop was the parish of his youth. Upon entering the church, he went straight to the baptismal font, knelt and kissed it. Because St. John Paul knew that the most important day of his life was the day of his baptism: not the day he was ordained a priest, or consecrated a bishop, or elected pope. The day of his baptism was, literally, the font from which everything else in his life flowed’ (The Catholic World Report, 27 April 2016).

Later that same year, the Pope made an Apostolic Journey to the US, where he addressed women religious:

On the day of our Baptism, we received the greatest gift God can bestow on any man or woman. No other honor, no other distinction will equal its value. For we were freed from sin and incorporated into Christ Jesus and his Body, the Church. That day and every day after, we were chosen ‘to live through love in his presence’ (Ep 1:4). (Address of His Holiness John Paul II to Women Religious, Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C., 7 October 1979).

Even today, the Holy Father reminds us of the significance of Baptism. As Romans celebrated the Baptism of the Lord on the day we celebrated Epiphany (Jan. 7), Pope Francis marked the day by baptizing babies in Sistine Chapel, 34 of them! Immediately afterwards he addressed the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square at the Sunday Angelus. He invited those gathered to think about their own Baptism, saying all Christians should record the date of their Baptism. 

Why take note of the date of your Baptism? I don’t have any recollection of mine whatsoever. Still, we receive the gift of faith at Baptism—the seed of faith I pray continues to grow. Over the past year or so I have taken inventory of the important dates of my journey and found the exercise to be fruitful in recalling what events and what people have formed me in my life of faith.
Pope Francis reminds us too that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to each of us by the Father on the day of our Baptism: ‘It is the Spirit who transmits to us the tenderness of divine forgiveness. And it is still the Holy Spirit, who causes the revealing Word of the Father to resound’. Therefore, we should remember the date of our Baptism, ‘because to forget it means to expose ourselves to the risk of losing our memory of what the Lord has done in us’. I am prompted to sing out with the psalmist: ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!’ As reported on Vatican Radio (Jan. 7, 2017): ‘Thanks to our Baptism, the Pope said, not only do we become new creatures “clothed with Christ”, but we are also able “to forgive and love those who offend us and do us harm; we are able to recognize in the last and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and is close to us”.’

It seems to me remembering the date of my Baptism, even celebrating it!, and thereby recalling the marvelous things God has done for me is not a waste of time. Even though I don’t remember the occasion, I now know I was baptized at the ripe age of 20 days. What a blessing to receive the great and glorious gifts of faith and the Holy Spirit at such an early age. It was helpful for me to also gather the dates of my First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. I think of the parish where I received the Sacraments and also those that gathered to share in the cBaptismelebration with my parents, those known and unknown to me, those living and deceased—all those who helped shape and guide me throughout my early years. 

Why not do a little research and find out the date of your own Baptism. Your parish (or the one you were baptized in) should have it on record. Indeed, the date of our Baptism is the font from which everything else in our life flows. May we live through love in Christ’s presence.


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