It was a moment that warmed the cockles of my priestly heart. It also reminded me of something I had once read about Pope Saint John Paul II. On the fiftieth anniversary of his baptism, John Paul returned to his home parish in Wadowice, Poland, and he kissed the font in which he had been baptized. After he was elected cardinal, he made a special trip to kiss it again. On his first trip to Poland after being elected pope, he did the same.
Pope St. John Paul knew the great importance of baptism in his life – and what grace had come to him from his participation in the Body of Christ.
We celebrate this coming weekend the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A couple of years ago on this feast Pope Francis gave the people to whom he was preaching some "homework." He challenged them:
All of you know the day on which you were born and you celebrate it as your birthday, don’t you? We all celebrate our birthday. I ask you a question, that I have already asked several times, but I’ll ask it again: who among you remembers the date of your Baptism? Raise your hands: they are few (and I am not asking the Bishops so as not to embarrass them...). Let’s do something: today, when you go home, find out what day you were baptized, look for it, because this is your second birthday. The first birthday is the day you came into life and the second birthday is the one on which you came into the Church. Will you do this? This is your homework: find out the day on which you were born to the Church, and give thanks to the Lord, because at Baptism he has opened the door of his Church to us.
There is an old quote that reminds us, "As soon as we are born we begin to die." To that I add, "As soon as we are supernaturally born in baptism we begin to rise from death and live forever in the bliss and love of God." It sounds like a moment truly worth cherishing and celebrating, doesn't it?
Accept the Pope Francis challenge. Reflect on what baptism has done for you. May there be many baptismal anniversary celebrations in the year ahead. May they be prayerful and joyous!