by Fr. Tommy Lane
I would like to begin by sharing with you some of what a lady called Doris wrote about her life.
“My father abandoned his wife
and four children when I was young. I never saw him and never heard from him and
until I was 18 I believed he was dead. When Aunt Emma, my father’s sister,
told me he was alive, I was astonished. I gave her my graduation picture to give
to him, and hoped he would contact me. He never did. Later, when I committed my
life to Jesus, I developed a relationship with Him and knew His love. Yet I was
afraid of God the Father. Knowing Him as a tender and loving Father seemed
impossible. One day I learned that my father had died. My deepest prayer to meet
him would not be fulfilled. I felt an enormous hurt, and visited Aunt Emma. She
told me a little about his life and death, and said he decided not to see me
because he was too ashamed of his behavior as a young father. He must have
known, through her, that for 17 years I had asked about him. I stood near his
grave engulfed in anguish. My search was over. This was as close as I would ever
get to my father. I cried out to God, ‘It’s too late, too late! I have no
father!’ At that point I heard a voice say, ‘I am your Father.’ I turned
around but no one was there. Again I heard the words, this time softer. ‘I am
your Father.’ It was hard to believe at first, but the God I had feared spoke
to me. I felt His love surround me. Because God revealed Himself to me as
Father, I no longer feel the hurt of an abandoned child, nor the pain from my
fruitless search. I was healed so that only the memory and none of the pain
remains. That afternoon in the lonely cemetery changed my life. Where God was
once only a remote figure of the Trinity, He is now the Father I talk with, walk
with, and praise each day. I realize this wonderful Father loves all His
children so much that He impatiently awaits the day that He can draw us close to
(Taken from Healing Through the Mass pages 24-25 by Robert DeGrandis, published and copyright 1992 by Resurrection Press and used by permission of the publishers.)
Just as our heavenly Father spoke to Doris, our Father also spoke on the day Jesus was baptized, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him.” Because we are baptized we are beloved sons and daughters of God. Just as the Father said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on him” when Jesus was baptized, the Father said over us when we were baptized, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter.” On the day we were baptized we were changed forever. Imagine, you became a son or daughter of God on the day you were baptized, enjoying a new relationship with our Father. It was because of her baptism that Doris benefited from this beautiful relationship with her heavenly Father. We don’t think enough about our baptism, this most important event in our lives. If we reflected more on who we are since baptism how different we would be, how differently we would live.
The Sacrament of Baptism emphasizes this new relationship with our Father. The older rite of Baptism until Vatican II emphasized washing away original sin more. That is still part of the sacrament but now the sacrament emphasizes becoming a child of God and a member of the Church. That is why after baptism at the font four signs (explanatory rites) in the sacrament symbolize for us this new relationship with God. If you listen to the prayers accompanying these four signs (explanatory rites) they tell us about our new relationship with God.
Firstly the child is anointed with the oil of chrism. This is the holy oil used by the bishop to anoint us on the forehead during Confirmation and to anoint the hands of a priest during his Ordination. Part of the prayer for the anointing during baptism is, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
Secondly the white garment is put on the child. Part of the prayer accompanying putting on the white garment is, “…you have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity”.
Thirdly a lighted candle is given to the parents, a symbol of receiving the light of Christ. Part of the prayer accompanying this is, “This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ.”
Fourthly the ears and mouth of the child are blessed (see Mark 7:31-37) because they will hear the Word of God and the child will profess his/her faith. (the symbols of our baptism are used again at our funeral)
Being baptized as children would make no sense and have no meaning if as we grew up we didn’t put our baptism into effect, if we didn’t live like people who have been baptized into the Catholic Church. Our baptism when we were children would have been a nonsense if we did not decide for ourselves as we grew up that the decision made for us by our parents was in fact what we ourselves also wanted for ourselves. There is one occasion above all others during the year when we proclaim that what our parents did for us was what we also wanted, that is during the Easter Vigil when we renew our baptismal vows. Every sacrament has a lasting effect, our baptism was not just a magic formula recited over us by the priest to wash off original sin and give us a chance of getting to heaven. Baptism is like Ordination and marriage, it is something to be lived every day. When we were baptized it is as if the Father said over us as he said over Jesus, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter.” Doris was privileged to experience this in a dramatic way. The rest of us live every day knowing God is our Father and we are his sons and daughters since we were baptized.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
More homilies for the First Sunday - The Baptism of Our Lord
Related Homilies: Baptism Changes the Quality of Our Souls Forever 2011