The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homily: Baptism of Baby Matthew

Reading: Mk 1:9-11

We’ve all heard this Gospel passage many times. But why was Jesus Baptized? After all, He’s the Son of God. He’s sinless. Why should He be baptized? Scriptural scholars have debated this question for centuries, but I think there’s a simple answer.

Christ was baptized, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, to purify it at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to all Christians, to people of all ages.

And Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist because Jesus asked John to do it. Jesus, the Son of God and a man of faith, asked John to baptize him, and John in full obedience did as he was asked.

We baptize today in full obedience to Jesus’ command, and because a person or persons of faith ask us to do it. And so we do it.

Of course, little Matthew here didn’t tell me he wanted to be baptized, and were I to ask him I probably wouldn’t get much of an answer.

Matthew certainly hasn’t asked to be baptized. And I suppose it would be a stretch to call him a man of faith. But does he trust in God? Once again, no. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Matthew trusts only that Mommy and Daddy are there for him when he needs them, when he’s hungry or afraid or just wants to be loved.

If all this is true, why then are we baptizing Matthew, this wonderful little gift of God?

We’re baptizing him because his parents, Megan and Matt, are people of faith, and because they have asked us to. Can we then offer the saving Grace of Baptism to a baby (even a cute little guy like Matthew) just because his parents are people of faith and ask us to do it?

As usual, the answer comes to us again and again in the gospels where we encounter Jesus saving innocent children based upon the faith of a parent.

He raised a dead girl to life because Jairus, the girl’s father, asked Him to [Mk 5:21-24].

He freed a woman’s possessed daughter from the grasp of evil because the woman begged Him [Mt 15:21-28].

He raised the dead son of the widow in Nain out of simple compassion
[Lk 711-17]

In each case a child was saved, a child lived through the saving power of God. These events remind us, too, of the centurion who approached Jesus and asked Him to heal his faithful servant with the words we repeat daily as Mass:
"O Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed" [Mt 8:8].
And how can we forget that scene when the disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus:

"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” [Mt 19:13-14].

Yes, Jesus wants the children brought to Him, so they too can be blessed, so they too can experience salvation. 

In the same way your son, Matthew, will experience today the saving power of Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Today you will share Matthew with God the Father who will claim him as His adopted son.

It is your faith that allows all this to happen. And that same faith places a huge responsibility on you. For today you promise to bring Matthew up in the faith and teach him to trust in God, to grow in friendship with Jesus Christ.

And godparents, Angela and Chris, you are called to help Matthew’s parents in this ministry, for that’s what it is -- a ministry of the family, of the domestic church.

Given the name of our soon-to-be Christian, I think it’s especially fitting to conclude with the last words of Matthew’s Gospel. These are the final words of Jesus to His disciples before He ascended to the Father in heaven:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” [Mt 28:19-20].
And so we are called to baptize and to teach. Today we do the first of these for Matthew. But you must now begin to fulfill the second, to teach.

We know you trust in God. We know Matthew trusts in you. Live up to that dual trust by doing as God has commanded you.

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