Saturday, January 12, 2013

You were baptized to change the world (Sunday homily)

This feast recalls something remarkable: 
Our Lord Jesus--our Lord God-- got in a line with other people,
who were coming to repent for their sins. 
It would be like the Lord getting in line for confession! 

This is a powerful reminder of why God became man: 
Not only to be with us, as one of us, but to bring us back to himself. 
So by getting in line with the sinners, Jesus stands with us. 
Then, when he gave the sacrament of baptism-- 
This is the baptism with the Holy Spirit the Gospel mentions--
Our Lord makes it possible for us to be with God--forever. 

So, first: we do well to remember the power of our baptism. 
To be baptized is to be a citizen of heaven. 
When I get to baptize children, 
I like to point out that baptism makes us saints. 
Is it really that easy to become a saint? 
Yes, it really is--but it’s not easy to stay a saint. 
That’s why we get into the confession line--
to regain the divine life baptism gave us, but which sin takes from us. 

Another part of baptism is the anointing with sacred chrism. 
The chrism is very fragrant; it is blessed only by the bishop, 
once a year during Holy Week. 
The prayer that goes with the anointing describes how--in baptism--
we share in the dignity of our Lord Jesus, as priest, prophet and king. 

We say this--but what does it mean? It means we share his future. 
The Son of God came from heaven and he’s taking us back with him. 
It means we share the Holy Spirit. 
It means what the Father said of Him, he says of us: “with you I am well pleased.” 

And…here’s the challenge: it means we share his mission. 
The Lord’s baptism was the first step 
to taking the message of hope to God’s broken people. 
So that’s our mission, too. 

And because that’s what this feast is about, 
 that’s why this is also a day we talk about 
answering the call to be a religious brother or sister, or a deacon or a priest. 

I have a lot of enthusiasm for talking about the priesthood. 
I love being a priest! But I want to talk more today about religious life. 

After Mass Saturday morning, I met some lovely Franciscan Sisters of the Poor. 
They told me about their work--in schools, in hospitals, 
bringing hope and life to people who are facing poverty. 
These Sisters had each served over 60 years! 

You might say, I can make a difference--I can teach, I can help others--
without being a religious brother or sister. And that’s true. 

So what’s special about the religious life?
It’s the companionship with our Lord.

Saint Francis of Assisi--who never became a priest--
is almost certainly the most famous, 
most highly respected Catholic, who ever lived. 

He was a man of the world: handsome, wealthy, popular, much admired; 
when they talk about people “having it all,” Francis was that guy.
But when he saw the poor around him, he decided to help.
The more he gave to Christ, the more he wanted to give.
His father thought he lost his mind and tried to stop him.
Finally, Francis simply gave everything--
even his clothes--back to his father. 

See, what happens with people like Saint Francis, Mother Theresa, 
Katherine Drexel, my patron, Martin de Porres,
And so many more, 
is that just giving part of their lives to Christ wasn’t enough.

Now, that isn’t everyone. But if it’s you, nothing else will satisfy.

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