Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jan. 11, 2015: Baptism of the Lord (B)

Click to hear Audio Homily
How many of you use the camera function on your phone? Have you taken a selfie with it? Have you taken a selfie with a famous person? Perhaps around Donaldsonville and around Bayou Lafourche a selfie with our local celebrity Troy Landry (Swamp People) would be a good one. Some teenagers made the headlines in 2013 when they uploaded a selfie with the most unlikely celebrity, Pope Francis, inside St. Peter's Basilica after mass. There is something about us wanting to be identified with or closely associated with someone who is larger than life. Perhaps the fame of the person, or perhaps in the case of Pope Francis, his holiness would rub off on us by association.

Fr. Frank Uter, told me about a personal encounter he had with Mother Teresa when she came to Baton Rouge to visit her sisters. He was the rector of St. Joseph Cathedral at that time, and as he was introduced to Mother Teresa, Fr. Frank extended his hand to shake Mother's hand. Mother Teresa extended her hand, then did something unexpected. She took his hand and kissed it as if he was a dignitary. This gesture startled him. She had kissed his hand as if it was Christ’s hand.

If a saint such as Mother Teresa took your hand and kissed it as if it was Jesus’, would you be startled? Would you be honored, or would you feel embarrassed? Perhaps you don't feel worthy to be honored by such a holy saint. Is it too far fetched to believe that each of us belongs to the same family of Jesus, in fact brothers and sisters of Jesus? “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Heb 2:11)

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord. Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church.  Yet a question may stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus? In baptism, we were buried with Jesus into death, so that as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). It is an act that touches the depths of our existence. A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same. A person who is baptized and a person who is not baptized are not the same. We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

At times we look to this world for happiness and look to the things that will pass from this world for pleasure; the unfortunate result is that we turn from our Heavenly Father. Is this what God had in mind when He gave us the gift of baptism? We must remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within us to guide and direct us to true happiness and eternal life with the Father.

Pope Francis urged us not to forget the great gift of baptism that we have received. He said, “Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. Our baptism has also given us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries.” The Pope said “as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our Baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church”.

Blessed Mother said in Medjugorje,
“Dear children, By your baptism you are all, in a special way called and loved, therefore witness and pray that you may be my extended hands to this world which yearns for God and peace. Dear children, I wish that you all be the reflection of Jesus, which will enlighten this unfaithful world walking in darkness.”

Pope Francis asked in his general audience address whether his listeners knew the date of their baptism. He said it is the most important day of our lives, but most of us don’t even know the date. On this feast day, let us ponder about what the gift of our baptism means for us. Are we using this amazing gift from God to transform lives?