On my days off, I often get to spend time with my brother priests. We spend the day together and many times, we tell our “war stories” of events that happen to us over the past week. It is usually an enjoyable time of good reflection. Once in a while, something happens that is really, really, funny. That is the story I want to share with you today. It is a little bit gross, but I hope you will be okay with it.
Last week, Father Steve had a Baptism for a beautiful baby girl dressed in a white dress. He performed the Baptism, pouring the water over the baby, saying, "I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." It is a beautiful moment. The mother takes the baby in her arms. A moment later, Father Steve notices a horrible smell. A smell that you cannot believe a tiny little infant can produce. He says it was so bad that he started gagging. I said, "Well, were you able to hide your expression from the family?" He said, "I didn't have to. They were all doing the same thing!"
Now, the mother, of course, was horrified. She has this brand new Baptized baby who has just messed herself. All the mother wants to do is get this baby clean. Father Steve finishes the Baptism and the mother cleans the baby. Everything is okay in the end. The family was just laughing about that experience. How moments after being Baptized and the baby is made clean, she messes herself. I think it is a wonderful image of sin and a wonderful image of how we struggle with messiness in life. And how God looks at us.
First of all, I want you to focus on the mother looking at her child. When that child messed herself right after being Baptized, the mother's love did not change for her child. She still loves her child with unconditional love. She did want to get her baby clean, but she did love her with unconditional love.
Last Sunday we celebrated, The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus came to John the Baptist to be Baptized, not because He needed to be freed from sin, but because He wanted to enter into our experience of this Baptism. He wanted to take on our sin and experience not only taking on sin, but being cleansed of it.
From the beginning of creation with Adam and Eve, who God made in this perfect Garden of Eden, and giving one rule, which they messed-up. Over the years, in generations, it just kept getting worse and worse. So God washed all of creation with the flood. He brought about new life with Noah. And wouldn't you know it, mankind messed it up again. God is so patient with us. He continues to love us. He finally said, "The only way that I am going to get through to them is if I send my only begotten Son, to take on the sin of mankind through Baptism." So God sent Jesus into our World.
Here is the amazing thing. The day that you were Baptized – which I'm sure you won’t remember - (I sure don't remember mine.) you became Christ. It is through the words that we speak in the Sacrament of the Baptism, that we become Christ; you are Baptized into Christ Jesus. At that very moment, as God looked at you, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came down, and God said to you, "You are my beloved son" or "You are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." From that very moment on, God looks at you as Christ. God looks at you with nothing but unconditional love. But just like that baby, we tend to mess ourselves, right?
I use the analogy of confession, too. Think of the last time you went to confession, or even the last time you went to Sunday Mass. You walk out of Mass and you are going to have a good week, right? And then you get into the parking lot and everything changes. All of a sudden you mess yourself.
The reality is, we do this and we keep doing it, but it never changes how God looks at us. He always looks at us as His beloved son and His beloved daughter in whom He is well pleased. He looks at you and He sees Christ. In Baptism, you became Christ. He does like to clean us. He doesn't want to allow us to just sit in our mess. Our sin is like that baby. The mess doesn't just affect us. Everybody else can smell it, believe it or not. Everybody else is impacted by our sin. God wants to restore us and reconcile us and wash us, and heal our relationships, and bring us back into communion with the Church and with Him. There is only one Baptism for us, but there are two more ways for us to experience this cleansing and this forgiveness of sin.
The first is the Sacrament of Confession. This year we are celebrating the Year of Mercy. One of the things the Holy Father really wants is to welcome everyone to the Sacrament of Confession. I encourage you, whether it has been months, years, or even if it has been since you were in grade school, to experience the wonderful Sacrament of Confession. There is no unforgivable sin. There is no mess in your life that God cannot clean up. It is the wonderful experience of His unconditional love for you.
The second way that we experience cleansing is at the Eucharist. Every time we come to Mass and receive the Eucharist, we are cleansed of our sins. Every Mass begins with the Penitential Rite, where we take a moment to call to mind our sins and ask God to grant us pardon and peace. Every Sunday, when you come to Mass and actually offer your sins during the Penitential Rite and receive Communion, you are made clean once more. Chances are, you are going to mess yourself before you get home, but remember that God still loves you. He looks at you just like that mother looks at her child. It doesn't change anything. She still looks at her child with unconditional love, but she wants to clean her up.
God the Father looks at you as His beloved sons and daughters. As we celebrated this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and Jesus heard that voice echo from the heavens, "You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," that voice echoes every time we celebrate Mass, every time you receive Communion, every time you go to Confession, the voice of God says, "You are My beloved Son. You are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased."