Baptism of the Lord
(Mom’s 100th Birthday – Parents’ 73rd Wedding Anniversary)
St. Anthony Parish; Clarksville, Indiana
Jan. 12, 2020
It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the joy of offering Mass here at St. Anthony’s. And it’s a joyous event that brings me here–my Mom’s 100th birthday (which is today) and, in a few days, on January 18th, Mom and Dad will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary. My parents now reside at Providence Diversicare on Charleston Road, but I want to take a moment to thank Father Joe West – thank you, Father Joe, for the loving pastoral care you continue to give to my parents; it’s much appreciated!
Thinking ahead to this occasion, Mom said to me, “Don’t make the sermon about me or Dad” – and that makes a lot of sense. After all, the center of attention of every sermon or homily is the Lord Jesus. But I wouldn’t be much of a son, if I didn’t offer a word of love to my parents – to my Mom, as she gives thanks to the Lord for a hundred years of life; and to my parents who have been married nearly three quarters of a century. I offer this word of love for myself and my brother, Joe, and also in the name of family members and friends gathered here this morning.
Mom and Dad, your life and your marriage are a great blessing, certainly to us, your sons, whom you continue to love as only good parents can do, and indeed to all of us – because, in one way or another, we’ve been touched by your example of strong faith and enduring love. You have worked hard and you have faced challenges and hardships, but in the midst of it all, your love for each other and for us has only grown stronger. I think of the loving care you gave to your eldest son, to my brother Frankie; your ministry of visiting nursing homes, bringing the Eucharist and a word of cheer; your practice of praying the Rosary every day; Sunday Mass without fail and daily Mass whenever possible; and the encouragement and love you continue to give your family and many others.
For the gift of life and faith – and for living that faith so earnestly – I offer you not both a word of love and a word of profound and humble gratitude, along with the prayers of everyone here, that God will continue to bless you and to keep you in his love. And as Mom and Dad celebrate these special milestones,
I hope all of you celebrating a birthday or a wedding anniversary will also experience the Lord’s special love and encouragement and closeness to you and your families.
The Source of All Joy
Mom, of course, is right – mothers usually are – when she said that the subject of every homily is really never any one of us, but Jesus, or more precisely, who Jesus is and what he means to us and to our lives. And that is certainly true as we observe today’s Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. In a way, celebrating this great feast is like going to the source of the faith and love we celebrate in my parents’ life, and in your life and mine, and in the life of this parish.
For the past weeks, we’ve been celebrating the Lord’s Birth, including all the events that surrounded the coming of God’s Son into the world: the poor and humble circumstances of his birth in Bethlehem; the example of love offered by the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the mysterious visit of the Magi from the East who offered royal gifts to the newborn King of the Jews, gifts that spoke of the mission he would accomplish.
Today we fast-forward, some thirty years later, as Jesus begins his public ministry, the mission God the Father entrusted to his beloved Son, in the power of the Spirit. So it is that we find Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River where John the Baptist was administering a baptism of repentance. Jesus surprises John by asking to be baptized – and, as we saw, John resisted. John resisted because he knew, as we know, that Jesus had committed no sins for which he needed to repent. But the Lord insisted on being baptized; he insisted on being plunged into the depths of the waters of the Jordan, and he did this as an essential part of his mission by which all of us, one day, would come to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit in and through the Sacrament of Baptism.
For, as Bishop Robert Barron wrote, “The Father sent his Son on a mission to go all the way to the bottom of sin, all the way under the water of our dysfunction, in order to gather all of us into the life of the Spirit, which is to say, the love shared by the Father and the Son.” (Magnificat, Jan. 2020) That is why, when Jesus comes up out of the water, the Father’s voice is heard. God the Father says of Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!” That is also why the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove hovers over Jesus and remains with him throughout his ministry of preaching and healing, a ministry and mission that culminated in Lord’s saving Death and Resurrection. Jesus did all of this to save us from our sins and to gather us into his Church where our fellowship with one another is rooted in our fellowship with God, our fellowship with the Persons of the Trinity. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we share in the love of the Father and the Son, a love that was revealed and unleashed in the world by Jesus’ gift of self, that is to say, his death on the Cross for sinners and his glorious resurrection that restores our life. This is the life, the love, and the friendship for which we are created, and while we find many other things in life very attractive, in fact no love other than God’s love will ever satisfy the deepest desire of our hearts.
The Gift of Baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism opens the door to God’s life and love. In fact, Baptism is like a rebirth because by it we share in a whole new life, not just our earthly life, but as members of the Church, we share God’s life. So, 100 years ago, the State of Kentucky issued my Mom’s birth certificate – (I haven’t seen it lately but I’m reliably informed that this record does indeed exist!). A few days later, her parents brought her to St. Martin’s Church in Louisville where she was baptized and issued what Pope Francis called, “a rebirth certificate”. That is to say, she, like my Dad who was baptized about a year and a half later – they were reborn in Baptism by water and the Spirit and they became God’s children by adoption, so that, amid all the ups and downs of life, they were given the grace to become pleasing in the Father’s eyes, to be like Jesus!
This, in fact, is what happened to each of us and to all of us on the day of our Baptism. So today – the feast of the Lord’s Baptism, is a wonderful day to give thanks to God not only for the gift of human life we received from our parents but also for the gift of divine life we received from the Holy Spirit in Baptism. If we hope to live a long earthly life, we must take good care of ourselves, physically and emotionally. If we hope to be fit to share eternal life, we must take good care our spiritual selves, our heart and soul, …nurturing God’s life in us by sharing in the Eucharist on Sunday; …restoring God’s life in us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; …welcoming God into the inner core of our hearts through silence and prayer; …expressing God’s love for us by loving our neighbors and serving those in need.
In this way, all of us will have the joy of someday celebrating not a hundred years of life but unending life – and pure love and pure joy found only in the heart of the Triune God, surrounded by the angels and by saints from every time and place.
Happy birthday, Mom! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! And may God bless us all and keep us always in his love.