Second Sunday of Ordinary Time – Deacon Scott Maentz
January 19, 2020 – 8:30 and 11:00 AM
One of the great privileges of being a deacon is that I get to administer the sacrament of baptism. Yesterday I baptized a young child who seemed to me to be ready to receive this sacrament, even though I know that he was too young to understand what was happening.
He was smiling and watching intently as I read the words of the Rite. He seemed to enjoy having the oil of catechumens rubbed on his tiny chest. When I poured the water over his head, baptizing him in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit he didn’t make a sound. And when I anointed his precious head with the sweet smelling oil of chrism, the sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit we receive in baptism, he appeared to be soaking it all in.
It left me wondering if he didn’t in some way experience the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him, cleansing him from Original Sin and incorporating him into Christ, making him a member of the royal family of Christians.
In today’s gospel passage John the Baptist recalls his experience of baptizing the Lord. He tells us that he saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him, reassuring him that Jesus is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. That he is indeed the Son of God. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, asks John to baptize him even though he had no need to be cleansed. Why? Because he wished to enter fully into every aspect of our human experience and underscore the importance of this first sacrament we all receive.
The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation when he tells Nicodemus that if we are not born again of water and the Spirit we can not enter the Kingdom of God. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is our gift from Pope Saint John Paul II that presents the precious deposit of Christian doctrine in a way that makes it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will. The Catechism teaches that Baptism is necessary for salvation and that the Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude.
Baptism also prepares us to live a life of holiness by providing the sanctifying grace we need to enable us to believe in God, to hope in him and to love him through the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.
It gives us the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.
Finally, baptism allows us to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. The Catechism defines a virtue as an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but also to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God. As we hear the prophet Isaiah proclaim in the first reading, when we live a virtuous life we become a light to the nations so that God’s salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
As members of the Body of Christ through our baptism, we are all called to live our lives in such a way that others will see the good that we do and give glory to God. We are expected to be light shining in the darkness. As Saint Paul declares to the Corinthians – and to us – in today’s 2nd reading, those of us who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus are called to be holy, to live holy lives.
So just how do we answer our baptismal call to holiness? How do we live our lives so they are pleasing to God? Is it enough that we come to Mass once a week or is there more to it?
I believe the answer can be found in today’s responsorial psalm. What did we all just sing? “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” We must choose to regularly place ourselves in the presence of God and tell him that we wish to do whatever it is he asks of us. We must understand and abide by the teachings of his one holy and apostolic Church, ALL of its teachings, not just those that suit our individual preferences.
Christ established the Church and gave it authority over all matters of morality and spirituality. The teachings of the Church inform us of God’s will for us. They define those acts that are moral and immoral. They challenge us to give our lives to God through acts of service, fasting and abstinence. The teachings of the Church define for us how we are to live and so many of its teachings are counter-cultural. They can be hard to accept and put into practice, but like any good mother, the Church gives them to us for our own good.
Dear friends, in our baptism the Holy Spirit marks us with the seal of the Lord for the day of redemption. Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life. The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life marked with the sign of faith, his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God and in the hope of resurrection. This hope is the result of our faith and our obedience to God’s will, made known to us through the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church.
Let each of us resolve today that we will be more attentive to God’s call to faithfully live our lives according to the teachings of Christ and his Church. Let us not pick and choose which teachings we will follow, but strive to follow them all.
Let’s not ignore or refute those teachings we find difficult and run counter to the secular values of our modern culture. We must strive to understand and accept those teachings that we find difficult, and ascent to them even though we may question them. We should never think that somehow we know what’s better for ourselves than God does. Let us bring our doubts and concerns to God in prayer and study, asking him to enlighten us as to why he asks us to abide by certain teachings that we find challenging.
We are all royals by virtue of our baptism. We have been given everything we need to live holy lives, lives that are pleasing to God. In addition to the sanctifying grace we receive in baptism, we have these owners’ manuals (hold up the Bible and Catechism) – Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church – to teach us show us how to care for and feed our spiritual and moral lives.
Dear friends, it’s time to take these books off the shelf, read them, and put into practice what they teach so that we may enjoy happiness both in this life and for all eternity. These books contain everything we need to know to get to heaven. Let’s resolve to study them and to take them seriously, as we ask for God’s grace to follow EVERYTHING they teach us.
God bless you.