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Do you ever go back to the church where you were baptized? Does your place of baptism have any meaning for you? The church building where I was baptized when I was six-years old in South Korea no longer exists. Although I still have a photo of the priest pouring water on my forehead, I vaguely remember what happened.
Sometime ago I made a private pilgrimage to Wadowice, Poland, the birthplace of St. John Paul II (also known by his given name Karol Wojtyla.) There is a beautiful museum built on the site of his family home that displays in great detail the history, culture, and the life of the saint. Next to his childhood home is the Basilica of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary. In a side chapel in the basilica is the baptismal font where St. John Paul II was baptized. In 1979 during his first pilgrimage to Poland, then-Pope John Paul II stated: “In this baptismal font, on 20 June 1920, I was given the grace to become a son of God, together with faith in my Redeemer, and I was welcomed into the community of the Church” Besides his baptism, there were other significant events in his life celebrated in that church. Pope John Paul said, “In this church I made my first Confession and received my first Holy Communion. Here I was an altar boy. Here I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood and, as Archbishop of Kraków, I celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. God alone, the giver of every grace, knows what goodness and what manifold graces I received from this church and from this parish community. To him, the Triune God, I give glory today at the doors of this church.”
All of us imitate Christ’s death by being buried with him in baptism. If we ask what this kind of burial means and what benefit we may hope to derive from it, it means first of all making a complete break with our former way of life, and our Lord himself said that this cannot be done unless a man is born again. In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another. Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptized are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature. We receive saving baptism only once because there was only one death and one resurrection for the salvation of the world, and baptism is its symbol.
St. Gianna Molla said, “Where else can we find a God who loves us so much that He came to share in our lives day by day, minute by minute?” So we must not hide our hope. As Our Lord said to us, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 14-16) If the empty tomb gave so much hope and encouragement for the disciples 2,000 years ago, we too should not hold ourselves back in fear, laziness, or indifference in proclaiming who Jesus is for us and who Jesus is for the world.