Most of us celebrate our birthday. Some of us celebrate our feast day as well. But how many of us remember and celebrate the day of our Baptism? You may not know this, but for many centuries it was the custom of people to celebrate each year the anniversary of their baptism. The celebration was a kind of reunion for the people baptized, their family members and their godparents.
Here at JOS, at every baptism the community gives the family of the child being baptized a baptismal candle. That candle is lit during and presented to the family while the priest prays this prayer: "Dear parents and godparents, receive this flame. It is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. Your child has now been enlightened by Jesus Christ and is to walk always as a child of the light, to keep the flame of faith alive in their heart." The family is told to take the candle home and light it each year for the anniversary of the baptism. (I have no way of knowing whether or not these families actually follow through with this annual celebration, but I hope they do.)
In remembering our baptism, we remember our true identity and to whom we belong. We are followers of Christ and we belong to God! This should inspire and direct all we are and all we do, as it did for Jesus himself. Jesus' public baptism by John the Baptist prepared him for his public life and mission. In today's second reading, Luke simply and eloquently describes that mission in five words: "He went about doing good." Jesus' life of teaching, healing and preaching wasn't just 'doing good.' It was a frontal assault against the evil of his day.
At our baptism, we too are given the mission of being God's agents of peace and justice, compassion and forgiveness in a world that too often acts to the contrary. Do we recognize ourselves as such? We ought to, for at baptism we too are filled with God's Spirit. We too are equipped with many gifts and graces to reflect God's goodness - despite our all too obvious failings and limitations.
Perhaps we can go home this morning, look for our baptism certificate, maybe at the bottom of some old shoebox in closet, attic or basement, find the date of our baptism, and mark it on our 2014 family calendar. Then when that date arrives, we can light a candle with our family, sing "Happy Baptism" day to ourselves, and feel justly proud that God has chosen us to do as Jesus did, to 'go about doing good' in a world where that's often difficult to do.