On June 23rd, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, called from birth by the Lord to herald the advent of the Messiah’. John baptized with water…but he tells us, “one mightier than I will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).
With John the Baptist, the time of promise comes to an end; with the baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit upon Him the time of fulfillment, the period of Jesus, begins”(Luke 3:19-20). Jesus urged John to baptism Him….even though He was sinless. Jesus sets the example for all of us who are seeking salvation. In baptism we are called to mirror and image the mercy and forgiveness the Lord has won for us (1 Cor 15:45-49).
Today, we are the beneficiaries of God’s graces through the sacraments of the Church. When you and I received the Sacrament of Baptism, the first of three sacraments of initiation, our hearts were opened and the Spirit of the Lord was working through us so as to allow the sacrament to become an operative power within us.
Hahnenberg (2003) observed, “If before Vatican II, church teaching and theologians tended to restrict the effects of baptism to the forgiveness of original sin and the infusion of grace in an individual soul, then Catholic thought since the Council has focused renewed attention on baptism as incorporation into the Body of Christ and as a source for active life in this Body, a source for ministry (pp.161-162).
By virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism, we become the Lord’s servants who willingly assume the responsibility to participate vitally and meaningfully in the life of the Church. Moreover, through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus gives us His own Body and Blood as spiritual nourishment to keep the flame of sanctifying grace burning brightly within us and to unite us more fully to Himself and to his Body, which is the Church.
All are called by their baptism to serve in the one mission of Jesus. In our Diocese, for example, we have ambassadors who actively “go out into their communities to invite people to encounter the Lord and His mercy.” These ambassadors of Christ seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. It is the role of the laity “to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.
The transformation of our society begins in the home (the domestic church). Parents give witness to their faith by what they say and do each and every day. In the Order of Baptism of Children, the celebrant (bishop, priest, or deacon) addresses the parents in these words: “In asking for Baptism for your child, you are undertaking the responsibility of raising your child in the faith, so that, keeping God’s commandments your child may love the Lord and their neighbor as Christ has taught us.” Do you understand what you are undertaking? Today, more so than ever before, parents need to place their faith in a loving God, to teach their children how to make good decisions, and to give witness to Christian values.
In these very unsettled days of our country’s history, we need to let go of the anxieties and fears that can ravage us. Let us open our hearts to receive the love of God. On June 24th, we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our diocese consecrated itself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus some time ago when we prayed: “Lord Jesus, to Your Most Sacred Heart I consecrate my entire life, actions, trials, joys and sufferings, only so that I may love, honor and glorify You in all I do. Help me to make You the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my weakness and the secure refuge at the hour of my death.” Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Amen.