(This brief message was delivered at Holy Redeemer Catholic Community on April 23, 2011, the Easter Vigil. Mason Lee Gray was baptized during the Mass of the Resurrection.)
This evening, as we celebrate together the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also remember his call to each of us to follow him, to be one of his disciples, to be baptized in his name and to take our rightful place as a daughter or son of God. While most of us do not recall our baptism because we were infants, those, like Mason, who are baptized at a later age will have the advantage of remembering this night for the rest of his life.
The act of baptism – an act that Jesus himself underwent – is one that reminds us of what God already knows: that we are children of God, beloved by our creator, and that we are part of a larger family of people…the people of God. In a few minutes Mason will make his own commitment to Christ, with his godparents standing behind him. Promises will be made to follow Jesus, to reject evil, and to be a full member of the Body of Christ. These are the promises that Mason will make to us, the People of God.
But, Mason, it’s not only about what you are promising to God and to us tonight. It’s also about what we promise to give you for the rest of your life. We promise our love, support, and care. We promise you our continuing friendship and prayers as we share the hopes and labors
of the church of Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit we commit to growing with you in God’s knowledge and love, and to be witness of our risen Savior. We know that your life will be filled with blessings, but it will also bring you pain and sorrow. That is the mystery of the cross that we all carry on our own. But it is also the mystery of the cross that we promise to help you carry, wherever your life takes you.
Mason, I hope you always remember this night as the night you made your promises and the night promises were made to you by this community. Vows are serious things and I know you take yours seriously, just as we take our commitment to you very seriously.
We Catholics spend a lot of time in church talking about God’s love for everyone, even the worst sinners, even the ones we don’t approve of. But we also go to a lot of trouble keeping our distance from these people, which is not what Jesus asks us to do. Jesus wasn’t the least bit worried about talking to the “wrong” people, or of being a friendly smile to someone who was lonely and rejected by everyone else. To be a follower of Jesus means that we, too, will have to go places where we aren’t always comfortable. People like to draw a line between “us” and “them”, but the truth is, Mason, that there is only one group of people: the people God loves with all his heart. These are the people you are called to love with all your heart.
In baptism, all trace of sin is washed away and we receive a new beginning. Baptism reminds us that we belong to God, that love is what will carry us through this life and that we are called to become the presence of Christ in the world. Baptism also brings responsibilities with it, the responsibility of belonging to a family, the responsibility of that family to accept the new member into its open arms. And so, tonight, Mason, we proudly claim you as our son, our brother, our friend for the rest of your life. You are ours because you belong now to Christ, who has called you to walk even closer with him and help change the world into a beautiful gift for God.