Sunday, February 18, 2024

The most important day of your life (Sunday homily)

 What do you think was the most important day of your life?

Was it the day you were born? 

Or maybe when you graduated from school? 

Or when you met your sweetheart? Or when you were married?

Maybe you have four or five most important days: 

when each of your children was born?

Was mine when I was ordained as a priest?

No: as very special as all those are, 

none of those was the most important day of your life. 

The most important day of your life – and mine – 

was the day we were baptized;

because that is when you and I received eternal life!

You and I were joined to the life of the Holy Trinity

and we became citizens of heaven.

That changes everything.

What does that have to do with the flood in the first reading?

The flood washes away all that is hostile to the life of God; 

everything that separates and distracts us from God.

And that is what baptism does, too.

So how do we get from a flood to the desert?

When you wash away everything that commandeers our attention, 

all the urgent that isn’t important -- when all that is gone, what’s left? 

What’s left is the essential confrontation 

between good and evil that we see in the Gospel,

with all the distractions and illusions stripped away.

Above all, notice it is Jesus facing the devil – not us. 

He’s squaring off in the battle each of us faces.

Jesus confronts our enemy on our behalf.

What happened when we humans faced the devil 

the first time, doing it for ourselves? 

That was our first parents, in the Garden.

They lost, and our hope was destroyed.

So, as St. John Henry Newman said, 

“A second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.”

The confrontation comes day by day, the choice between

Embracing the truth of ourselves as God created us to be,

Versus the illusion of making ourselves our own gods;

but we never need face our ancient foe alone. 

That’s what Good Friday and the Cross are about. 

Jesus had a choice; he said, let the cup pass, if possible;

but if not, Father, thy will be done! 

Once again, that is what baptism is about:

you and I being joined to Jesus: we take up his cross;

and he takes up the battle on our behalf.

(That’s why we recall our own baptism today, 

and why we will do that in a solemn way in six weeks on Easter.)

Someone once told me, always have an action item in a homily.

So here it is: you have six weeks of Lent 

to discover the power and reality of your own baptism – 

the most important day of your life.

Go to confession: return to the purity of your baptism.

Remember the vows made for you. Make them again for yourself.

On the day of your baptism, you were set on the path toward heaven. 

This time of Lent is our opportunity to recheck our heavenly GPS

And make sure you and I are still headed the right way.

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