Blessed Sacrament Parish
Homily by Father Mike Kuse
January 12, 2014 – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
10 AM Service
Gospel Mathew 3:13-17
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan
to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you,
and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us
to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
How well are you doing with your baptism? Some of us were baptized at birth and some as adults. Quite often it is easy to think of baptism as something you are supposed do if you’re Catholic, or Christian — “just get your child baptized.” In the experience of Jesus, it means so much more.
That’s why as we celebrate this feast, and it is good for us to think about our own baptism. We witness this event here in the parish, usually on Sundays, as the parents present their child for baptism.
If you notice every time we do a baptism there is a certain ritual. In the very beginning we ask the parents, “What name have you given to your child?” Then we ask, “What do you want for your child?” The next question is, “Are you ready to help your child to live out this baptism so he or she will know how to love and to forgive?”
Then we turn to the godparents. Children will have a godmother and a godfather,
two godmothers, two godfathers, but they will have someone who the parents have chosen who will support them in raising this child in the faith.
Sometimes people forget that and think: “I don’t know if I want to be a godparent. If anything happens to the parents I don’t know if I can raise that child.” That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the gift of faith.
So that little introduction says a great deal for those who have chosen to be a godparent. There’s something about your faith that explains why you are being chosen. You may be a sister or brother, or in-law, or aunt or uncle — but there is something there.
I remember several years ago a young couple I married had their first child. Naturally, they were very excited and wanted to have their child baptized. But the father said, “We have a problem. I have five sisters and brothers, my wife has two or three brothers and sisters, and none of them go to church. We really don’t want any of them to be godparents to our child.”
They had just moved into town and didn’t know too many people and they said, “What do we do?”
I said, “You know, baptism is part of a community. Would you be honored if I would ask a couple in the parish to be godparents for your child?
They answered, “That would be fantastic.”
So I asked a couple who did not have any children, “Would you be willing to be godparents for the child of a young couple in our parish?” They were ecstatic, just thrilled to no end.
We have to realize that the rituals that we experience, and the faith that we experience, are not empty and one-time events. In our Catholic experience it just carries us, as we say, “from womb to tomb.” We are supposed to be energized by everyone else’s baptism because baptism opens the doors to first communion, to confirmation, to marriage, to priesthood, to the anointing of the sick, to reconciliation.
So now it is up to us to ask, “What am I really doing with my baptism? And how do I touch other people? What does it mean to be a brother or a sister?”
Just to give you an example: I met a few weeks ago with members of the various parishes who bring communion to the hospital. If you are in the hospital, there are communion ministers who go to the hospital seven days a week on assigned days and visit all the Catholic patients.
Quite often when one of them goes into a room to see a patient the communion minister will say, “I am a communion minister. My name is Mike Kuse and I am from Blessed Sacrament Parish. I would like to pray with you, and if you would like to receive communion, I would certainly like to share that with you.”
Ever so often you come across someone who will say, “Pray with me but I don’t want any communion.”
I told the communion ministers at the session, “When that occurs, you need to be Christ. Don’t be judging. Just be Christ. Because you don’t know if that person will get out of the hospital and be released the next day, or they won’t live. This could be your moment to be brother or sister.”
Very recently that scenario came up, and this time instead of the communion minister saying, “Well, I’m sorry I can’t give you communion but I will pray with you,” he said, “Since you are a patient here in the hospital, we put aside everything and I will give you communion.”
When the communion minister told me this story tears started coming down his cheeks. He said, “I have never had an experience like this. When I gave communion to this person, tears rolled down his cheek and I started to cry. And I realized then — there is something to all of this.”
How are you a brother or a sister to someone in need? There are so many moments in our lives when we forget that it is an ongoing experience. For those of you who are married, wouldn’t it be a little strange if at the marriage ceremony you gave each other a kiss, and gave each other a hug and said, “Done that. It’s over. We don’t need to do that anymore.”
We say no. The kisses go on forever. The hugs go on forever. Our sacrificing for each other, it goes on forever. That’s how we stay alive. And that’s where God is saying to us, “Listen to my son. Follow the path that he has taken.”
That is what makes us a parish.
It’s just to say, “If I can be Christ to you, if I can be your brother or sister, then I want to be that.”
So I ask you today, “How are you doing with your baptism?”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.