St John's Q&A

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baptism of the Lord - homily

Officially, the Christmas season ends today. So, if you have been debating with your co-workers or family members about what is the proper day to take down Christmas decorations, today is the day (I’m sure you’ve been debating!). Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord marks the end of Jesus’ “early life” and the beginning of his public life. Jesus wasn’t baptized to be saved; he is the Savior. He was baptized to be an example for us to follow. In his baptism, as the Pope has reminded us, we see similarities with our baptism.

Baptism comes in three forms: by water (which is most common), by blood (martyrs), and by desire. The last one would be for people who have never heard of Jesus Christ or the call to be baptized by water. In their hearts, they desire to do good and to do God’s Will. There still are people in our world who have never heard of Jesus Christ. The foundation for the understanding of the three forms of baptism comes from our second reading (1 Jn 5:1-9): by water, blood, and Spirit. Jesus says in Mark 16:16 that “those who are baptized are saved”. One needs to be baptized in one of the three forms in order to be saved. Baptism washes away Original Sin and brings Sanctifying Grace which we need to have eternal life, to get to Heaven.

Baptism also gives the gift of faith. Each of us received the gift of faith at our own baptism. At one of my first baptisms as a deacon, the father of the child came up to me afterwards and said, “this is the best gift I could ever give my kid”. It was such a profound and true statement! He wasn’t talking about toys or athletic ability or intelligence or even education (which are all good gifts). He was saying that faith is the best gift he could give his kid. I repeat that story at every baptism I celebrate.

So, faith is a gift that we receive at baptism. It’s like any of the gifts we received at Christmas: we can either use it or just put it in a closet and never use it and let it go to waste. It’s always a scary thing to clean out our closets after some time. We come across gifts from Christmases or birthdays from years before, and think, “oh, man, I forget about this one…oops…oh my gosh, I never used that!”.

Well, some people have that experience with regards to faith. It might be later in life that they realize that they hadn’t used the gift of faith for years and years. Heaven forbid, it might be after they have died that God shows them that they didn’t use the gift of faith they had been given. I have come across some who have realized it in this life. They come to Confession after 30-40 years and admit, “I haven’t been living my faith”. Or, so many conversations I’ve had with young people over the years – they admit in maybe their first real conversation about faith that they haven’t been using it.

The scary thing for someone who doesn’t use the gift of faith that they received in Baptism is not just that they let it go to waste in their own life, but Christ’s life and death becomes a waste in their lives. It’s like he died in vain; his death and resurrection go to waste. His whole mission is a failure in their lives.

But, for those who do their best to live their faith in Christ, there is victory! St John says in the second reading it is the “victory that conquers the world.” The victory that conquers the world! Christ won victory over sin and death, and all those who show faith in him as the Son of God share in his victory. Whenever we come to Mass or Adoration or go to Confession or pray to Him or pray the rosary or keep the Commandments or pray over Scripture or talk to others about Christ or serve the poor, we live our faith and share in Christ’s victory, the victory that conquers the world.

The best way for us to live out our Baptism, my brothers and sisters, is in the Eucharist. At every baptism, I challenge the parents and godparents to be men and women of the Eucharist, to be good examples to the kid of people who are living their faith. Baptism gives us faith, the Eucharist nourishes our faith. When we come to the Eucharist, we honor Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and share in his victory, the victory that conquers the world.


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