My car is coming up on 45,000 miles. The initial warranties and the maintenance agreement that I purchased when it was new are about to expire. Within the next month or so, I will leave it at the service center for scheduled maintenance, as well as a thorough check. I more than suspect I need new brake pads.
This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which brings to a close the Christmas season and opens up onto the life and public mission of Jesus Chris.
The Second Vatican Council fifty years ago re-emphasized that Baptism is the foundation of every Christian’s identity before God and among men, and confers Divine and eternal life on all who receive it. This sublime identity and this great power are not to be neglected, but by uniting every one of the Baptized into the one People of God, makes them sharers in the mission of the Church, and as members of the Body of Christ, gives them great power to reconcile all things in Christ. The hope was that the faithful baptized would see that they not passengers on the ship of salvation, but rather the skilled sailors and crew. The well being of the ship, and the possibility of reaching her heavenly destination, depends upon their care and work, not simply that of the captain.
Our current liturgical calendar, as revised after the Council, gives us today’s feast in order emphasize our own Baptism. In reflecting upon what God has done during Jesus’ Baptism, we understand that in our Baptism, God has made us His children and heirs. In responding to the admonition the Listen to Him, we hear His commandment to Love one another as I have loved you, which we can fulfill only because of our Baptism into His life.
We associate Baptism with children – infants even. It is a time for cake that is sweet and gifts that are sweeter. Family comes from all over to witness and participate, posing for pictures and enjoying the party. Is your Baptism still in an album somewhere, or has it grown into adulthood with you?
I am not asking whether you can find your certificate or your candle, much less whether you would fit into you gown. I am asking whether by your behavior you demonstrate that you have received Baptism; whether you grasp Christ as your one true light, and you wear your washed and whitened soul as your most precious garment. In what condition is your own Baptism today?
Have you continued to learn about the Faith, or are you relying on the last class you took, in high school, or eighth grade? We need to continue to read and learn. A great resource for this would be the video series Catholicism from Father Robert Barron and the Word on Fire Institute. Do your nourish your faith with reflection on the Word of God in Scripture, through private study and careful attention during liturgies, and with the very Body and Blood of the Lord in the Eucharist? Our engine will gum up something fierce without the frequent oil and filter changes of sacramental Penance to remove the gunk called sin from our system. Our brakes will fail to save us from disaster unless we recondition them by fasting and abstinence.
I have to maintain my car because if I do not, it will cease to function. Our Baptism is much the same way. Both the years and the miles can wear down the power of our Baptism. But He who sanctified the waters is the One who makes all things new. That will include us -- so long as we give our Baptism His suggested maintenance.