From time to time, people ask me, “what’s your favorite part of being a priest?”
There are many things I like about being a priest – and it is hard to say which is my favorite.
Although I never would have thought this as I was going through seminary – actually – PREACHING is one of the things I enjoy ---- I like the opportunity of Sunday after Sunday trying to make the Scriptures interesting and doing my best to set hearts on fire with their message.
I like working with a staff and together – trying to achieve a common vision and goals.
Likewise, I enjoy working with the faculty and students of a school – doing my best to shape them little by little into the image and likeness of Christ.
I enjoy celebrating the Eucharist and making the body of Christ available to people so they can become the body of Christ themselves.
And then I really like celebrating --- BAPTISMS.
There is this small green book that priests and deacons use for the rite of Baptism. It has everything spelled out in it – all the readings and prayers: what you are to say in black, what you are to do in red. . .
On the last page of my own copy – which has long since fallen apart because of use –
I wrote the name: Mary Margaret Voerster – May 24, 1987.
That was the first baby I ever Baptized, one week after my ordination as a deacon.
Little Margaret was very well behaved – she did not cry – she was very calm and quiet – I, however, was a nervous wreck hoping that I was saying and doing everything correctly.
Baptisms are typically joyous occasions. It’s a celebration of tremendous possibility and hope – even more so, I think, than weddings.
I really do enjoy having weddings too – although I might have a tendency to deny that --- weddings – more often than not –
become all about the dress, and cake, and the reception venue. BUT BAPTISMS -- are all about the baby. About a new life being welcomed into the Church.
And there is something very particular, very specific, found in that black lettering in the Baptism ritual: the words that must be spoken for validity – that is for the Sacrament to be properly celebrated.
We call it the Trinitarian Formula. Which is: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
When people come to the Church from another faith tradition and want to become a Catholic – it is probably one of the first questions that is asked: have you been Baptized???? And how were you Baptized – because if those words were part of the ritual, then the Catholic Church recognizes those Baptisms.
So on this Trinity Sunday, if you want a reminder of how important the Trinity is – THAT is it.
From the very beginning of our lives as Christians, we are sealed in, claimed in, chosen in ---marked with the sign of the faith in: THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
This signifies the extraordinary importance the Church places on this singular belief – this one great teaching – one God, three persons.
It all comes down to the Trinity: which is one of the reasons we celebrate this particular feast – one week after Pentecost – because the Trinity has just recently been revealed to a waiting and anxious world – Father, Son, and Spirit –
and why we remind ourselves of this teaching every time we enter into a Church --- whenever there is NOT a pandemic that keeps us from doing so!!
You may have noticed that the words in the second reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians sound very familiar. I often use them at the beginning of Mass: calling upon Christ’s grace, God’s love, and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship to be with us in this place as we gather to celebrate – in person, or remotely.
But that’s not the first time we have mentioned the Trinity at this Mass – today we began with something that most of us probably take for granted, and hardly think about – but we use it very often:
It’s the sign of the Cross – used not just as a gesture as we enter or a church or to begin and end our prayers – and not just a sign of our Catholicity -------------- but it is a restatement of our BAPTISM.
The words I spoke over Mary Margaret all those many years ago --- the words spoken over each one of us as water was poured over our heads –
the first words that made us members of the Body of Christ. Those words we speak again and again and again – as we in effect re-Christen ourselves.
We brand ourselves with God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit --- and whatever we do or say after---- is done in their name.
Each and every time we use that Trinitarian formula --- we become icons, images, representatives – of the Blessed Trinity.
What an incredible gift.
What an incredible responsibility.
Just think of what that simple gesture – which we most likely do automatically – really means. . .
We touch our heads for the Father – the one whose mere idea, whose smallest thought, brought us into being. This is where we all began – in the mind of God.
We touch our hearts for the Son – the one whose unceasing love took him to the cross, and the one who taught us as well –how to love--- through his own Sacred Heart.
We touch our shoulders for the Holy Spirit – the one who gives us strength, and who enables us to be God’s hands and feet – working to make God’s kingdom present.
When we make the sign of the cross, and pray the sign of the cross --- we make ourselves an offering and a prayer. We embody what the Trinity represents, and we seek to bring that presence with our lives and with our actions to all those we meet. We do it in the name of God: all that God is and all that God does: we do it in the name of the Trinity.
Near the end of the Baptismal ritual, a small candle – lit from the Easter candle -- is given to the newly Baptized child. The priest or deacon says: “receive the light of Christ.”
Let us pray to live in that light – to always be drawn to it, and to always strive to give it to others. In the name of God in three persons –
---in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
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