Peanut butter. I love peanut butter. I always have. And chocolate too. They are each fantastic. But together… ah, together.
Sometimes, you can take two great things and put them together and then they are beyond great. One plus one is more than two, it’s three or four or even more.
Another example? Paul McCartney plus John Lennon.
Another? How about Bill Belichik plus Tom Brady?
One more? This last one will take a little more to explain…
One of the greatest joys I have as a Catholic deacon is having the ability to preside at baptisms. I’ve been doing this for a while now and about a year ago, a young teenager walked up to me and said: “You baptized me!” I replied: “Wow, you have a great memory.” Yes, I was trying to be funny. She told me that there is a picture hanging in her bedroom of her baptism day: parents, godparents, baby… and a younger and thinner version of me… right there on her bedroom wall, all these years later. I loved hearing this because she is a young woman who I have watched grow up, seeing her and her family on Sundays at Mass, from the days when she was held as an infant, to when she ate cheerios from a small container sitting on her mom’s lap as a toddler, to the time when she was an altar server, right up to now.
The reason I tell you this is because baptism is a two part gift. There are two steps to it, in sequence. The first part, the actual baptism itself, is an amazing gift as we believe as Catholics that through this sacrament, we are changed. It’s symbolic sure… but it’s more than symbolic too. The second part? That is actually what we do with the gift. That’s the second part. And it’s really important.
What makes me a little sad? When I see children who I have had the privilege of baptizing and who I see around town with their parents who I recognize, in stores or at Country Kitchen or at Bird Park… but who I don’t see at Mass. Ever. And I wonder about them. I don’t mean to judge… but I can’t help but feeling as though those children received the first part of the gift, but I wonder about the second.
In today’s gospel, Jesus himself was baptized. This was the official start of his ministry. At the very end of his ministry, as he was addressing his disciples for the final time, he told them that they too should go out and baptize all, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He wanted the disciples to bring the gift out into the world and to give it to as many as they could. But then he told them that he would be with them until the end of time. That is the gift of eternal accompaniment.
I mention this when I preside at baptisms because I want everyone to know how special the gift is that the baby or babies there are about to receive. But I also want to emphasize the fact that there is this second part: Because it’s what you do with the baptismal gift that counts.
Baptism and what you do with it… is like peanut butter and chocolate, Lennon and McCartney, Brady and Belichik…
In both Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels, Jesus tells a parable that includes the statement that someone should not hide a lamp under a bushel basket. Being given the gift of baptism but then essentially doing nothing with it is really the same as hiding a lamp under a basket.
If you have been baptized, then you have been given the first part. And that means that Jesus wants to accompany you forever. To take your hand in his and to walk with you forward, into eternity.
So I ask you: what are you doing about that second part?