Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Jesus. On this day, Mary & Joseph bring their infant son Jesus to the magnificent Temple of Jerusalem, the most holy place on earth for Jewish people. They go there, as all good Jewish parents do, to consecrate their infant son to God.
We have a similar important day in our lives wherein parents bring us as infants to church to consecrate us to God. It's called our Baptism day. But as significant and meaningful as Baptism is, it is not our guarantee to enter heaven - which reminds me of a story:
A holy person dies and goes straight to heaven where a guardian angel takes this person on a grand tour. The tour begins in heaven's lengthy, wide crystal-gleaming hallway with beautifully decorated doors to spacious rooms on both sides. As the two approach the first door, the sound of Gospel music is loud, upbeat and lively, accompanied by clapping hands. "That's the Baptists" explained the angel. Moving along, they come to the next door where they hear loud, deafening organ music that drowns out the singers. "The Lutherans are in there," explained the angel. And so the tour continues, passing large rooms housing in turn Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and others, each with their own style of heavenly music.
Finally the pair approaches the last door of the lengthy hall. The angel whispers: "Be very, very quiet here at this door." "Why?" the person asks. "Oh," the angel responds, "We have to be quiet here. This is the Catholics' room, and they think they're the only ones up here!"
As important as our Baptism is, it is NO guarantee of heaven. That guarantee comes only from hearts that are forgiving, grateful and compassionate. It comes from living the Gospel of Jesus consistently in our daily lives. It comes from being peacemakers and justice seekers. It comes from embracing truth, beauty and goodness wherever it is found. It comes from serving the poor, the vulnerable, the needy. It doesn't come from us! It comes from the God abiding within us, for our bodies are the most precious of God's Temples on this earth - far more precious than the Temple in Jerusalem, far more precious than this church in which we gather, far more precious than all the cathedrals, mosques and basilicas of the world, far more precious because we are the living temples of God!
So with bowed heads we pray. "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be re-created, and together we shall renew the face of the earth!" AMEN.