I remember when I was growing up, there was a plaque on the wall of my bedroom that stated my birthday, my height and weight at birth and the date of my baptism: December 31st, 1980 at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Maplewood, MN. I do not remember who made the plaque, but I remember that for my parents, the date of my baptism was very important. It was only when I became older and understood what baptism was really all about that I grasped why it was such an important date for my parents and especially for myself.
We celebrate our birthdays because they are a recognition when we entered into the world. It is a great day for us to remember and recall. We mark our birthdays by celebrations, friends, cake and songs.
And when we think about what happens at baptism, ought we not to have the same level of celebration, if not even a greater celebration! Baptism is our spiritual birthday! It is the day where the grace of God’s divine love was poured into our hearts in a new way and we are “birthed” into the life of the Church, into this new family where we call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” and we now address God as “Father.” Just as our physical life was a pure gift from our parents, our spiritual life is a gift from God and ought to be recognized as such.
Pope Francis recently said of our baptisms, “Sometimes it’s something we don’t remember but a way we can definitely remember it and incorporate it into our lives is to celebrate the date of our baptism...it's the date of our rebirth as children of God.” He even gave all of us the “homework” of finding the date of our baptism within one week...and I echo that challenge to you...if you do not know it, find the date of your baptism and then, celebrate it with great joy, because it was on that day that the Holy Spirit washed you free of original sin; it was on that day that you were received into the Body of Christ, the Church; it was on that day that you were able to call God “Father” for the first time; it was on that day that the grace and mercy of God poured into your heart in a definitive and transformative way.
Our birthdays are special and for us as Catholics our spiritual birthdays are joyous occasions. Let us celebrate the anniversary of our baptisms with great joy because it is through this sacrament that we become children of God.
Homily homework question: What insect did Fr. Gjengdahl reference in his homily to describe baptism and how did this relate to baptism?