Sunday, January 13, 2013


   The Baptism of the Lord   C  

After attending his baby brother’s Baptism,
little Tommy sobbed all the way home.
“What’s wrong?” his father asked.
“Well,” answered the boy, 
“the priest said he wanted us
to be brought up in a good Christian home…
…but I want to stay with you guys!”

Friday night, while sitting by the Christmas tree one last time,
Fr. Stitt shared a story from his recent vocations work.
He’d been speaking with the mother
of a rather active Catholic family,
whose teenage son would be
a fine candidate for the priesthood.
The young man has even admitted that,
when he hears the readings at Mass,
he often thinks about what he would say
if standing in the pulpit to preach.
So Fr. Stitt asked,
“Have you ever talked to your son
about the possibility of the priesthood?”
The mom said, “Not really.”
She said that she didn’t want to “push.”
“If God wants him to be a priest,
then I just figure he’ll make it happen somehow.”

We believe that God feeds us, right?
The Bible tells us he can do it in rather miraculous ways.
The Lord rained down manna for his people to eat in the desert.
Jesus multiplied loaves and fish for the hungry crowd on the hillside.
But most of the time,
God feeds us through much more ordinary ways:
through the hard work of farmers and gardeners,
of grocers and cooks.

And we all believe that God speaks to us, right?
We even believe that, as occurred at Jesus’ Baptism,
on rare occasions the Lord’s voice has been heard
coming straight from the heavens.
But more often than not,
God speaks in much less remarkable ways:
through the pages of Scripture and the teaching of the Church,
through the words of a sermon or the good counsel of a friend.

God has a rather longstanding habit
of depending upon simple human instruments
to accomplish his greatest works.

John the Baptist 
is an unmistakable example.
“One mightier than I is coming,” John testifies.
“While I baptize with water,
he will baptize with 
the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
There are many wondrous ways
in which God could have revealed 
that this man, Jesus,
is his Only Begotten and much-beloved Son.
Yet God chose to do it 
at the hands of an eccentric preacher
perched on the banks of a lazy river.

Jesus, of course, 
did not need to be baptized
for the forgiveness of his sinsas we do.
But just as he went down 
into the waters of the Jordan,
so the Son of God 
fully immersed himself
in our human conditioneven unto death—
that he might in turn cleanse and renew us.
At his Baptismanother Epiphany—
Jesus’ true identity and vocation
are made clear:
God’s grace has appeared in the flesh,
that we might become heirs 
in hope of eternal life.

At Baptism, whether as a child or an adult,
each and every one of us was given a vocation.
Although it’s not a word coming out of our Catholic tradition, 
to speak of Baptism as a “christening” [a Christ-ening]
points to the sacrament as a life-changing reality:
we are all called by the Father
and anointed by the Holy Spirit
to make Christ present in our own time and place.
Deep down, this is our truest identity!
And this general Christian vocation takes shape
in many particular vocations:
in the vocations of husbands and wives,
who give witness to Christ’s love by their fidelity;
in the vocations of fathers and mothers,
who keep Christ at the center of their families;
in the vocations of single persons,
who reveal Christ’s face in their neighborhoods
and parishes and schools and workplaces;
in the vocations of deacons, priests, and bishops,
who make Christ known in their ministry of Word and Sacrament;
and in the vocations of consecrated religious men and women
who point to Christ dwelling among us
by their vows, their common life,
and the distinct charisms of their communities.

By Baptism, we become members of the one Body of Christ—
a worldwide web that connects the human family in a way
which makes Facebook or Twitter look like child’s play.
Thus every vocation comes with the duty to foster other vocations.
If the only food we ate was that which came to us miraculously,
then we’d be on one heck of a diet.
And if the only divine guidance we expected or accepted
came by direct heavenly intervention—
well, just look around at the world today,
and you can see where that would lead.

During this Year of Faith,
Pope Benedict XVI has challenged us
to draw people back to the Catholic faith
or to lead them there for the first time.
Many of you have shared inspiring stories with me
of how your own efforts to do so have paid off.
If you don’t share your faith with family, friends, and neighbors,
then who will?

The same is true with Church vocations.
I know for myself
that if my parents and grandparents hadn’t been so insistent
on the regular practice of our Catholic faith;
that if my parish priests when growing up
hadn’t taken such personal interest in my future;
that if my Catholic school teachers, catechists,
and even fellow parishioners
hadn’t spoken to me specifically about the priestly vocation
they believed they could see growing within me,
then I wouldn’t be standing here at this pulpit and altar today.

The Lord is calling,
just as he always has.
Are we ready to help others hear his voice?

If God wants those who wander like sheep without a shepherd
to come take their place in his fold;
if God wants our young people
to embrace his plan for them
through vocations of service in the Church—
I firmly believe he can make that happen somehow.

And that “somehow” is you and me.

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