Five years ago, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, we celebrated the baptism of our first child. When we presented him in the church, we were asked, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” Our answer was, “Baptism.” Now, five year later, I’d like to ask something more of the Church and of the Body of Christ.
After we asked baptism of the Church, we were asked to “accept the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith,” told that it would be our “duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor,” and asked, “do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” At the time, I’m sure we thought we understood what we were undertaking. Five years later, it has become clear that we had a lot to learn. We have tried to do as we promised, yet we have learned a lot along the way.
For example, teaching a child to keep the Commandments has meant that we as parents have to actively try to keep them on a daily and minute-by-minute basis as well. To teach our child to love, we have to love others and act in a way that reflects that love. And here is where we spend most of our time teaching—in the area of love. When we chose Baptism for our child, we chose the Church, not just because it was something that we felt needed to be done, but because the Church is a beautiful creation and extension of Jesus Christ. Knowing that, we want our child to love God and his neighbor, whoever that may be. We count on the fact that he was “claimed for Christ” to make him a loving beacon of Christ’s own love for us. In the receipt of the Sacrament of Baptism, it is our hope that he will receive the love of Christ and marvel in the grace poured forth on a daily basis.
To this end, we presented our child with the name John-Paul. Although Pope John Paul II was not beatified until 2011, well after the birth of our child, I had no doubt that he would be beatified and canonized, as he was a true person of love. In fact, when Pope John Paul II made his tour of the Holy Land, I saw a picture of him that I will never forget. Although I don’t remember what he was wearing or what surrounded him, I remember looking at Pope John Paul II’s eyes, and feeling a rush of love. In that moment, I knew that he loved me, even without knowing me. He radiated God’s love. Those loving eyes captivated me so much that years later, when playing a guessing game with a youth group, when given just the picture of a single eye, I correctly guessed “John-Paul II”. Eyes that love in such a way cannot be forgotten.
That is precisely what I want for my son. I want him to shine with the light of Christ. I want him to look upon others with that same love. I want for him to say proudly, “I am Catholic.” And I want for people to know that because he is Catholic, he loves them.
Yes, I want his profession of faith as a Catholic to mean love.
So what is it that I ask of the Church, the Body of Christ? I ask that it be the Church of love. I ask that we as members of the Body of Christ look to walk the path of love on a daily basis. I ask that we treat each other in love, accepting that we are all sinners and that we are first and foremost children of God. I ask that we treat the poor, hungry, downtrodden, imprisoned, naked, sick, marginalized, and people different from ourselves with love. I ask that we focus on that which God commanded us to do: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We live in a world filled with hatred, lies, deceit, hurt, and malice. We have a model for how to do things differently. Let us truly be the “salt and light” of the earth so that we can all say, “I am Catholic” and people will know we love.