Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 6 of Season 5 for the Baptism of the Lord: January 9, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 3, verses 15, 16, 21 and 22.
The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Baptism: Putting on Christ Now and Always” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
One of the things that I, unfortunately, find happening is that many folks, even those who consider themselves to be faithful Catholics, are losing a sense of the importance of a sacrament. We can all too easily forget that the sacraments of the church - and there are seven - aren't just celebrations of rites of passage or benchmarks in a person's life, but that those seven sacraments all have a specific and powerful purpose in our spiritual lives. That they actually do something, not just celebrate it or remember it.
The basic definition of a sacrament is an outward sign given to us by Christ to give grace. And so when we look at a sacrament such as baptism, our common sense of things would say, well, it's really just becoming a Christian or becoming a Catholic. It's one of these introductory rights that we have to do so that we can then use the term Catholic or Christian to describe ourselves. And when we begin to limit our understanding of sacraments to just celebrations or to the marking of benchmarks, well, then they become very dispensable. Our need for them begins to decrease. And so, therefore, if we see them as something that actually does something - give us God's grace - then they become much more necessary, and things that I cannot do without.
What does baptism really do for us? It's not just the rite that we celebrate to become a Christian, although it certainly is that. But it's much, much more than that. It's much more powerful than that.
The sacrament of baptism actually imparts to the one who is being baptized. Christ's grace. This actually happens through the waters that are poured at baptism and the ritual that is celebrated that we take on Christ; that Christ fills the person, whether it's an infant or an adult with his own very light.
It's almost like taking a boat that's sailing down the water and you're steering it with a rudder, and it's going in a particular direction. And then all of a sudden you realize you're going in the wrong way, and so you turn that rudder, and you turn that vessel around, and you point it in the way that it needs to go.
That's what baptism does. It changes - not just celebrates, but changes - how the vessel of our lives sails. Because the fact that we often forget is that even if it's a baby, an infant, we come into this world bearing that burden of original sin, which really goes all the way back to the first time humanity ever sinned, and we carry that with us. And so even though we didn't cause it ourselves, even though it's not something we're totally personally responsible for, it affects us. And so we come into this world with clouded vision, so to speak. We don't see clearly, and we need something to help us see properly.
And what is the remedy for that but Christ himself? And this is what baptism imparts on the one who is baptized: the very presence of Christ himself. And that's why, through those powerful waters of baptism, I'm not just a regular ordinary child of God anymore. I share in that same special relationship that Jesus had with his father.
You know, we heard in the gospel today. God says you are my beloved son in whom I am pleased. Well, when we're baptized, God says those same words to you and I; you are my beloved daughter. You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
Acknowledging our status in that way changes up how we live our life dramatically. I'm not just a human being anymore I am now a privileged child of God. I share in that same relationship that Jesus had with his father. And while that elevates my sense of who I am, it also presents us with a responsibility because now we're just not a member of a faith or we just don't belong to this group. I am claimed by God for a specific purpose, with a specific destiny, with a specific mission.
That's why Pope Francis says that we are called every day, every day to live out our baptism as new creatures, clothed in Christ. Every day to live out our baptism as new creatures clothed in Christ. That's the why, when we. get up in the morning, even before we put our feet on the ground, it's good to remind ourselves of who we are because we can get so distracted and say just because we receive Christ in baptism, doesn't mean it's there permanently and can't be lost because, most assuredly, sin can cloud that over very easily, and we can begin to lose touch with the power of that presence. So we can't be fooled that it can't be taken away.
This is why the other sacraments continue to nurture the Eucharist, reconciliation, nurture that gift that was given to us in baptism. Our spiritual lives, our lives of prayer are all focused on nurturing that which was begun in baptism; to preserve it; to keep it; so we don't lose touch with it; that it grows and it develops, and we become people who live our lives like Christ. but just saying those words ought to resonate in and through us as something that is difficult to do, and it is.
As we move and live in this world that's getting so complicated and so distracted to say that my mission, your mission is to go into that world and live as Christ lived, that's hard. That takes work and it takes a lot of effort. And when we do that, we're not going to be the most popular person around. We may open ourselves up for criticism. But what does it matter as long as we're doing what we are called to do? And so, as we have an opportunity this week to celebrate the baptism of the Lord, let us also celebrate our own baptisms and the fact that through those holy waters, something has dramatically changed in us. We have taken Christ within ourselves and put him on. In him, we have been baptized. Alleluia!
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.