Bridging the Gap: A Tale of Two Booties

Bishop David Zubik

Bridging the Gap

If you ever had the chance to visit my apartment on the diocesan campus, the first place that I would take you would be to my little chapel.  It is one of the first places I go to in the morning and the last place I go to before retiring at night.

As soon as you enter, I would want you to notice a shadow box that was one of the most precious gifts from my dear mom.  A number of years ago, she had my baptismal robe and two booties framed with a date plate indicating my baptism on September 18, 1949.  You would probably wonder, with amusement, the same thing that I do: how could I have ever fit into those booties and the baptismal robe?

I treasure that precious gift from my mom, I have placed it directly above the holy water font.  The reason I have placed my baptismal robe and booties above the font is to remind me each morning that my baptism is more than a one-day event.  It is a lifetime challenge.  I don’t want to forget that. 

Isn’t it true that you and I can fall into the trap of having very short memories.  The greatest dream God has for us is that we get to heaven.  Out of His infinite love for us, He wants every single one of us to be with Him forever and always.  But even though it is His precious wish and He offers us an infinite gift, it is not an automatic “slam dunk” that we’ll get there.  Like our ancestors in the faith with whom God established His covenant—His relationship of love—we need to do our part.

Think about our ancestors in the faith!  First those in the Old Testament.  God was outrageously generous with them.  He willingly forgave all the times that they turned their backs on Him.  Time and time again their memories were short.  They forgot how much God loved them.  They forgot how much He did for them. 

The same is true about so many of the people whom we meet in the New Testament.  Even the Apostles, the special ones chosen by Jesus, had short memories.  Peter, James, John, Thomas and the rest of them sometimes dropped the ball on taking Jesus seriously. 

So, what about you and me?  Are we in this company of people who have a short memory about God’s love for us, who forget all that God does for us?  Whenever the chips of life are down, do we wonder “Where is God?”  Whenever the Church in her humanness fails us, are we tempted to wipe her “dust” off our feet, forgetting about the most precious gift of all, the Holy Eucharist, and leave that precious gift behind?

We can be grateful for how God waits for us to put aside our “forgetfulness” and take Him ever more seriously.

But that’s only half of the story. 

It’s not only crucial that we accept the gift of God’s love, but we must offer it back to Him in return.  That’s where the symbol of the baptismal robe and the two booties comes into play.  The baptismal garment is a reminder of what happened the day that we were taken to church for the first time.  We arrived wearing a baptismal robe given by our family.  When we left church following baptism, we left with another robe, an invisible robe, of having “put on Christ.”

The booties are a sign of our spiritual journey.  They symbolize how much we need to walk with Jesus!  They represent our mission to take Him to the world in which we live—in our words, in our deeds, in our thoughts, in our plans!  They are a reminder not to forget about Jesus.  They nudge our hearts to welcome Him every morning when we awake, to keep Him there throughout the day and to close our eyes with Him at night.

Perhaps you have your own precious story about your baptismal robe and booties.  It’s been a pleasure for me to share mine with you.  I hope it will prompt some reminiscence or a family conversation. 

But what must be true for all of us is this.  If we are serious about what happened to us at baptism, we must cherish what it means to put on Christ as our garment and to follow in His steps—step by step and foot by foot.

And that’s “the tale of two booties.”