My new grandson will be baptized next week and he will be “born again to a living hope… to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for him” (I Peter 1:4). And he will probably sleep or cry, or fill his diaper during this momentous, life-changing occasion. But he’s just a baby who doesn’t yet know who he really is or the inheritance that awaits him. Fortunately, he has faith-filled parents, godparents and others, who are committed to helping him grow as a son of God and receive the transformative gift of the Holy Spirit. At some point though, he will have to choose it for himself, and make his faith his own.
As adult Catholics, through baptism and faith in Christ, we are heirs of the greatest promise. Our time for slumber and dependence on the faith of others is long gone. We are sitting on a spiritual gold mine. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3-11 that we have everything we need and could possibly want in Christ. Are we living in the freedom of Christ and the blessings of our inheritance?
Both my parents passed away rather unexpectedly in the past six years, and with my father’s more recent death I received a sizeable inheritance. Despite my grief, I began to understand and appreciate the meaning of this inheritance, not simply as a monetary gift, but as a sign of the generosity and love of a man who worked so hard to provide for his family, even after he was gone. My father’s inheritance gift relieved a burden and accomplished something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. He did this, not because I was a perfect child (quite the contrary), or a deserving adult, but because he was a good, loving, and kind father. In fact, one of his favorite lines was, “What is mine is yours. No ifs, ands or buts.” The experience of such unconditional generosity stirred in me a profound sense of gratitude, and a desire to use the money well, out of love for my father. It also helped me understand more profoundly my heavenly Father’s merciful and saving love, which did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.
Jesus’ life work was to bring us back into God’s family, to restore our identity as sons and daughters of God. His generous, lavish love gives us access to all that belongs to Him, and most importantly, to His very nature, which is love. St. Pope John Paul II reminded us that the grace of our baptism is to be able to love as God loves. We can be like Him!
Knowing this reality should change everything for us. Yet, why are so many of us living like orphans and paupers when we have been promised all the riches of our Father’s Kingdom? Perhaps it’s because the sacrament of baptism in our own lives is merely a distant event or a theological concept. Instead, it is a gift of love from a personal, living God who wants us to meet Him and know Him. And when we do, we realize that the Gift is really God Himself. That changes everything and it changes us forever.
Let us in gratitude, be awe struck and rejoice at such a great gift and let it compel us seek to know Jesus intimately, and be empowered to lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1).
Debra Herbeck will be speaking at the 2016 Power and Purpose Conference this summer. Hope to see you there!