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Baptised into Death

June 28, 2020

A reflection for the 13th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A. The readings are 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a, Psalm 89; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 and Matthew 10:37-42.

I can imagine doing an interview with St. Paul and asking him why we get baptised. What happens at baptism? Paul looks at me and say, “We are baptised into the death of Christ.” He pauses for effect, looks at me straight in the eyes and then asks me, “Does that scandalize you?” I would be like, “Uh… no…“ (‘cause it would scandalize me a bit) He would smile and say, “You thought I would say that we are baptised into new life with Christ, right?”

Yes.

Then he would explain: “We are buried with Christ in Baptism, so that we can be united with him in a death, so that then we can be united with him in resurrection.” And he would be right. That’s what baptism is. We can’t be united into new life with Christ if we are not first buried with him in death.

That’s why John the Baptist began baptising people in the Jordan. It was a symbol of how people were dying to their old selves – by being buried in the water – just like the Egyptians were buried in the Red Sea, so that the people of Israel could be free. Symbolically, people would die to their old life and vow to begin a new life. They would no longer be slaves to sin; they would be free. But our Baptism is not symbolic; it is real. The real thing happens: We truly die to sin – to original sin – so that “the body that was ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7).

But what we forget is that this Baptism, which was a real death to sin – to original sin – has to be lived. We have to continue living our baptism by constantly dying to sin – personal sin – and being reborn in Christ. Our Christian lives have to be a constant turning away from those things that pull us away from Christ and turning towards those things that bring us close to Christ.

That’s why Jesus says today in the Gospel that we can’t have anything that’s more important to us than Christ. Nothing, not even your mother or your father or your daughter or son, not even your spouse – nothing. Nothing can be between you and Christ. What’s beautiful about that is that you are going to better love your parents, your children and your spouse if put Christ first.

And that’s why Jesus also says that he who loses his life for his sake will find it. And that’s why He also says that we have to carry our Cross. Because sometimes those things that bring us close to Him are Crosses: they are painful, they are suffering – but they bring us closer to Christ. And that’s what you always have to remember: People say that they have crosses to bear because they have an ongoing struggle or difficulty, maybe a disease or addiction or other type of suffering. But if it doesn’t bring you closer to Christ, it’s not a Cross! It’s just meaningless suffering. For suffering to be a Cross, it has to lead you to Christ!

So the question today is this: How do I live my life – my baptism – in a way that it brings me closer to Christ? How do I make sure that everything I say and do, is bringing me closer to Christ? (That a great way to end the day, by examining what our actions were: did they bring me closer to or further away from Christ.)

First, I think, we have to consider that what we are doing is good. Is it honourable, true, pure, noble, beautiful, life-giving worthy of praise, like St. Paul tells the Philippians (Philippians 4:8)? Are your actions motivated by fear, despair or pride? Or are you actions motivated by Faith, Hope and Love? And remember, it’s not just things that make us feel good or bring us joy. That’s not a good way to measure whether you are getting closer to Christ because it is oftentimes things that are painful and difficult that lead us to Christ. That’s why they are Crosses.

And we can’t forget that the best way to know if your life is leading you closer to Christ is to want to get closer to Christ: Get to know Christ. How do we get to know Christ? We get to know Him in the Word, in the Scriptures. Are you reading, studying and praying Scripture every day? (I feel like I say this every other homily.) And we also get to know Christ by getting to know His body, the Church. Do you read and study the Teachings of the Church? Do you read Church documents, Papal documents, Encyclicals, Exhortations and Apostolic Letters? Do you read our Early Church Fathers? Do you read writings from the Saints? I think everyone, on top of reading and praying with some Scripture every day, should be always doing some spiritual reading – something from the Saints or a Church document. That’s how we get to know the Church and when we get closer to the Church, we get closer to Christ.

And finally, we can’t underestimate the power of the Sacraments to bring us closer to Christ. You want to live your baptism, then you have to live the Sacramental life. We believe that Christ instituted the Sacraments because the Sacraments make Christ present to us in a way very physical, tangible way. Some of you may not be able to go to Mass right now, but when you can, will you? What about the Sacrament of Reconciliation? What a great and obvious way to continually die to sin, turn away from the things that pull us away from Christ and be reborn into Christ!

Maybe you are sick or are preparing for surgery? Don’t underestimate the power of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. And so many of you who have been preparing for your First Communion or Confirmation – we are going to do everything we can to make sure you receive those Sacraments as soon as it is possible, because they are important. This weekend there were priestly ordinations in dioceses all over. Those men could have waited until it was safer to gather and celebrate the Sacrament, but they chose to get it done. And I can say the same for some many couples who decided to go ahead with their Marriages despite the restrictions. There is power to the Sacrament: It makes Christ present. And of course, it all begins with the Sacrament of Baptism. Don’t wait to have your child baptised. Get them baptised as soon as you can, because that’s where this whole journey begins.

It may be a bit scandalous that we have to die and be buried – but we do so with Christ, dead to sin, so that we can be reborn with Christ and into eternal life.

From → English, Reflections

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