Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Pope has Homework for You!


Pope Francis is starting a new series of teachings on the Seven Sacraments.  His first one providentially is on Baptism and today we celebrate "The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord."

At the end of it he gives you some homework!

Here are some excerpts from his "General Audience."

Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church.

Yet a question may stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus?

And on this point what the Apostle Paul writes is illuminating: “Do you not know that all of us who have been

baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that touches the depths of our existence. A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same. A person who is baptized and a person who is not baptized are not the same. We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.

I have asked this question two or three times already, here, in this square: who among you knows the date of your Baptism, raise your hands. It is important to know the day on which I was immersed in that current of Jesus' salvation. And I will allow myself to give you some advice... but, more than advice, a task for today. Today, at home, go look, ask about the date of your Baptism and that way you will keep in mind that most beautiful day of Baptism. To know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received. Thus, we end up considering it only as an event that took place in the past – and not by our own will but by that of our parents – and that it has no impact on the present. We must reawaken the memory of our Baptism.

It is by the power of Baptism, in fact, that, freed of original sin, we are inserted into Jesus' relation to God the Father; that we are bearers of a new hope, for Baptism gives us this new hope: the hope of going on the path of salvation our whole life long. And this hope nothing and no one can extinguish, for it is a hope that does not disappoint. Remember, hope in the Lord never disappoints. Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and of loving even those who offend us and do evil to us. By our Baptism, we recognize in the least and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and makes himself close. Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, the suffering, and also of our neighbour, the face of Jesus. All this is possible thanks to the power of Baptism!

A last point, which is important. I ask you a question: can a person baptize him or herself? No one can be self-baptized! No one. We can ask for it, desire it, but we always need someone else to confer this Sacrament in the name of the Lord. For Baptism is a gift which is bestowed in a context of care and fraternal sharing. Throughout history, one baptizes another, another and another... it is a chain. A chain of Grace. I cannot baptize myself: I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church. In the celebration of Baptism we can see the most genuine features of the Church, who like a mother continues to give birth to new children in Christ, in the fecundity of the Holy Spirit.

And do not forget your homework today: find out, ask for the date of your Baptism.  As I know my birthday, I should know my Baptism day, because it is a feast day.

(You can read the whole address and watch the video by clicking here).

So here's the homework:  

1) Find your baptismal certificate and remember the date you were baptized on and celebrate it as a feast day every year!  


2)  Remember the people who have taken you by the hand in the faith.   You can't baptize yourself!  

As we hear in the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah?  

"I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

The Holy Father reminds us no one can be self-baptized.  Someone using their very own hands poured water over you and spoke the words "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  

Spend some time reflecting on the people who have taken you by the hand.  And if you feel so moved acknowledge them, write them a letter, take them out to lunch, thank God for them.  

(My Baptism: June 24, 1979) 
bw baptism font

3)  Take someone else by the hand in the faith.

Just as you have been taken by the hand and others have invited you into this faith, helped form you in this faith and grow in this faith.  You too are called to grasp others by the hand.  Try to think of someone that you can reach out to and grasp them by the hand and bring them into this wonderful gift of salvation.


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