This is a true story from Father Dominic J. Grassi, pastor of St. Gertrude Parish in Chicago.
“It was a long and circuitous journey that somehow (I call it grace) brought the family surrounding the baptismal font back to the Church. Judgmental words and self-righteous pomposity had driven them away. Simple acts of kindness and welcome eventually led them back with their three sons, ages 6, 4 and 2, to gather around the font flowing with the waters of rebirth. Their three baptisms would mark the beginning of a new life for the family, a recommitment by the parents who, when all is noted, had never really left their belief behind, just its locus.”
“‘Who wants to go first?’ The younger two grabbed; one, mom’s hand and the other, dad’s leg. The oldest took charge. ‘Me. Then you guys follow.’ He walked without hesitating to the font, stood on his toes and turned his head smiling at his brothers, his eyes wide open. ‘I baptize you…’ I saw his parents tears. The middle brother followed with new courage. Then they both held the youngest brother’s hands. Everyone laughed when he looked up and said, ‘That was fun!’ Gratitude, joy, renewed hope for them all. From heaven: ‘These are my beloved sons…’ They sure are.”
I entitle this homily, “Follow the Leader!” Jesus comes up out of the baptismal water and his Father rips open the heavens! Why? How? The Son does deeds of justice for the poor. He refuses to break the bruised reed of the human person. He does not quench the smoldering wick of the quivering spirit. Instead, the Lord Jesus becomes a covenant for us. He sees himself as a light for the blind. He becomes our warden by whom we are set free from prisons and dungeons.
So, follow the Leader! But make sure it is the Lord we follow and not ourselves.
To illustrate, many in Paris consider Mr. Lassana Bathily to be a hero. Mr. Bathily is a supermarket assistant in the suburban Paris deli raided by the terrorists last week. When the terrorists entered the supermarket, Mr. Bathily led six shoppers downstairs into the walk-in freezer to protect them. What is so heroic about saving six people? They are Jews shopping in a Jewish supermarket. And Mr. Lassana Bathily is a Muslim.
Follow the Leader! In the words of the Acts of the Apostles, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.” God’s power and spirit do not belong just to Christians. Everyone who fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God.
We the baptized must follow the Leader and lead the rest of the world into the kingdom. Do people know that we are Catholic Christians? Can people point at us and say, “There’s a Christian at work…at home…in the car…at the store…in the parking lot…in the dining room?” The Christmas crib is a beautiful scene. But it is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord that challenges us to live out the full meaning of Christmas. On this day all the cute little baby Jesus statues should be taken from the cribs and packed away! After our communion with the Lord, it is time to act uprightly so that God may be well pleased!
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
The Baptism of the Lord 2015