Friday, January 10, 2020 - Updated: 2:25 pm
During a recent physical exam, my doctor gave me some unorthodox advice to help me fulfill my New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get healthier. In addition to more exercise and better eating habits, he suggested that I should look at myself in front of a full-length mirror. No bulky sweaters or no baggy jeans.
His point was that we have a tendency to see ourselves as we want to be, not as we really are. Until we face reality, we really have no hope of changing ourselves.
As we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I offer you some similar advice for helping to keep your New Year’s resolutions. In fact, if you follow my advice, your life will dramatically change forever. Tonight, before you go to bed, stand in front of a mirror, look into your own eyes and repeat the words we hear in St. Matthew’s Gospel: “This is my beloved son, (or) this is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”
When you wake up tomorrow morning, do the same thing. Look at yourself in the mirror and say: “This is my beloved son ... this is my beloved daughter ... with whom I am well pleased.” In fact, every night before you go to bed, and every morning after you wake up, for the rest of your life, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat it.
See the real you. See what God, our Father, sees when he looks at you: a beloved child of God.
At one point or another in our lives, most of us struggle with questions of identity and purpose. We ask: Who am I? Why am I here on Earth? What is the meaning of my life? What is my purpose?
As Christians, our identity, meaning and purpose flow from our baptism. On the day we were baptized, we were changed forever. We became beloved sons and daughters of God.
It is important to reflect upon four defining components of the sacrament that occur after being baptized with water.
First, you were anointed with holy chrism, the oil used by the bishop to anoint us on the forehead during confirmation and to anoint the hands of a priest or deacon during ordination. The celebrant proclaimed, “The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
You were anointed priest, prophet and king. In the same way that oil was used throughout the history of Israel to consecrate God’s chosen leaders, it was used at your baptism to consecrate you to God. Through baptism, you became an “anointed one.” In other words, by virtue of your baptism, your purpose in life is to become Christ for everyone you encounter.
Next, you were clothed in a white garment, signifying your Christian dignity. You were told to bring that garment unstained into heaven; in other words, to live a life without sin. Even when you stumble because of sin, God is there to pick you up, dust you off and continue alongside you.
Third, your parents and godparents were given a lighted candle — the light of Christ. The priest or deacon addressed your parents and godparents with the following words: “This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He/she is to walk always as a child of light. May he/she keep the flame of faith alive in his/her heart.”
The prophet Isaiah (42:6-7) reminds us that: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.”
As a baptized Christian, your purpose is to bring the light of Christ to a world darkened by sin and division.
Fourth, and finally, the celebrant touched your ears and your mouth, reciting the following blessing: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith.”
As a baptized Christian, you are to listen faithfully and attentively to the word of God with your ears, and then proclaim the faith with your mouth to everyone you meet. At the conclusion of each Mass you are sent out to proclaim your faith to the world. The priest or deacon dismisses you saying: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!” He doesn’t say, “Go and have a nice week” or “See ya later” or “Take it easy.” He gives you a very specific task: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”
Your baptism was not some superstitious formula recited over you by the priest to get you into heaven. It wasn’t some cultural rite of passage or a nice family tradition. The great Swiss theologian Hans von Balthasar said that “The church does not dispense the sacrament of baptism in order to acquire for herself an increase in membership, but in order to consecrate a human being to God and to communicate to that person the divine gift of birth from God.”
Baptism gives your life purpose and meaning. Your baptism is something to be lived every day. Tonight, before you go to bed, I want you to stand in front of a mirror. Look yourself in the eye; think about your baptism and your purpose in life; see yourself as God sees you. Look into your eyes and say out loud, “This is my beloved son, this is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” Then, live your life as a child of God.
Deacon Kondrich is assigned to the parish grouping that includes St. Colman in Turtle Creek, Good Shepherd in Braddock, St. John Fisher in Churchill, St. Jude in Wilmerding, Madonna del Castello and Word of God in Swissvale, and St. Maurice in Forest Hills. He also serves as a chaplain at the Allegheny County Jail and works as the director of aftercare for the Foundation of HOPE.