In my role as Director of Vocations right now, I don’t have the opportunity to baptize very often these days. I loved baptisms and I always felt an excitement when I was the celebrant of them at the parish. To welcome new members into the Body of Christ was beautiful – absolutely beautiful! I would often give variations of the same homily, where I would talk about Jesus’ baptism and where I share John’s account was the Holy Spirit descending and the Father declaring: “This is my Son the Beloved in whom I am well-pleased.” I would extend this to these children and young people and declare in the name of Christ as a priest: that the Holy Spirit is descending and the Father is declaring “This is my son/daughter, beloved and in whom I am well pleased. There may be some who feel I am taking some license here, and others who feel I am wrong but hear me out: I declare this because it is Jesus’ Baptism they are being baptized into, and beyond our simple and somewhat simplistic and limited ways of understanding, if it’s His Baptism, then it has the same effects! I also believe in faith that this is true and DON’T imply that this means anything unless the family and the baptized child lives his or her Christian faith; and this I offer we must all work together to give him or her every chance to do.
I speak about Holy Baptism today because I think about this beautiful first sacrament every time I ponder today’s Gospel. Jesus declares: “Ephphatha!” (be opened) and this we ministers of baptism mark the baptized with at their baptism. We do what Our Lord Himself does in the powerful action of opening one’s senses to allow God the Holy Spirit to enter; but everyone involved can also contribute to closing those senses too. If a baby’s heart, mind and soul are opened by Christ through the minister; his or her heart, mind and soul can be closed by others who choose not to teach the child the Christian faith, or teach a misguided version of the faith. I also think of the terrible sins of the clergy; and I wonder how many beautiful children who had every possible hope of being dedicated and amazing Disciples of Christ had this taken away from them by people with chose evil over good. There are many things we can do to close a person off from God’s possibilities for them but the Good News is that there are many things we can do to work with God in continuing to allow His Will be Done and that when they become Beloved Members of the Body of Christ – that they respond to the “miracle” Jesus performed (among others) on the day of their Holy Baptism: “Ephphatha! Be open to receive My Life; to be My Light and to share My Word, My Love with everyone you will meet in this glorious life you’ve been given!”