Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 9, 2008
Baptism of Gioele
1st Reading: 1 Cor 12:12-28, Psalm 33:2-3, 6-19; 2nd Reading: 1 Pet 2:4-5, 9-10; Gospel: Mt 22:35-40
Today in the joy of this rite we have opened our arms and hearts to this boy who is the "last purchase" of our community. Every time a baby is born and baptized, we think of God reaffirming his paternity and has not forgotten us: the proof is that every birth shows, from God too, how important the act of creation is. This soul is vital spirit and it is what brings us closer, as likeness, to God.
Today begins his journey and commitment that at present is taken up by parents and godparents, and then, growing up, will be taken up by the baptized. A complete and total commitment, so we are in the situation to implement what our great friend Paul has summarized into a few lines: "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink".
He is talking about the Church. The mystical body of Christ is His Church, is the community of baptized, is the community of those who live in the grace of God. Legally speaking, those who are baptized and live in sin belong to the Church, but morally they are not part of it, regardless of their role they may have: priest, bishop, cardinal or Pope. If one is not in God's grace he is not a member of the Mystical Body. Jesus taught us this clearly when He presented his image of the vine and branches: a branch that is not joined to the vine, does not receive vitality and becomes dry and is only good to be burned and feed the fire. We want, and I first of all as pastor of this community, to wish Gioele and all his family to be like a small Church. As it is essential for the Church to have Christ present, loved, and related to the members belonging to it, in the same way, if you too want to be a small Church, a domestic Church, you must definitely be united with Christ.
Paul, as usual, knows how to show these high and deep concepts in the best way: "Just as the body does not consist of one single part but of many parts". Similarly, there must be this unit in a family, for if it is broken then those conflicts take over resulting in separation and divorce that are wounds, or worse, destructions. Each member has a service function with respect to other members. I am not claiming the superiority of one over the other, but equality and diversity should lead to maturity to achieve harmony. If I wanted to use an image I could and should indicate the bridegroom, the father as the head of this body, but the mother as the heart; the two members in no way can be separated, for separation brings death. For as the body dies if the brain or heart does not work, so the family dies if the father, the bridegroom or mother, wife, does not work. That's why we have to be united to Christ, to be nurtured by his grace, to be guided by his light and solve the problems of life and earthly existence by taking into account his teachings. This is the Christian family.
You could ask me: "Are there families like that?" My answer is yes. All of you, especially you young people, have been called to implement this ideal family, and it is to this ideal family that your children should inspire, and also those who are in touch with you: relatives, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and people you meet occasionally; it is this unit that is a guarantee for the family.
God is the One we have to listen to; He wants a union cemented by love and this puts us in a state of difficulty and inability to be understood by the world. Peter, who is replacing Paul in the teaching, makes us understand this concept: "Come to Christ, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God". Peter remembers what his and our Master said: the head and founder of the Church shows himself as the stone rejected by men but becomes the cornerstone. It is He who is assembling the building in a safe and quiet way. Families who lose their orientation is because they have rejected Christ and often, hidden behind the word "freedom", are in a position to give the family a serious blow.
Christ is the living stone and Peter is teaching us: "You too are living stones", but it is understood that as Christ is rejected, you too, if you want to be living stones, will be rejected. There is lack of communication between God and the world, meaning whatever in the world that is under Satan's dominion. This is the concept that Peter is introducing us and wants us to know. How can we, small stones, resist? Just by joining the stone which is the cornerstone that keeps together the whole building. As each stone is used to build the material structure, so every person, even the smallest, is used to build the spiritual building: first it is constituted in the family, then in the community, be it diocesan or parish, up to the great spiritual building which is the Church in its entirety and wholeness. This puts us in a privileged position because it raises us to a dignity that man alone would never attain; if we are living stones bound together with the living stone which is Christ, we also become a chosen race, a generation on which is resting the call to salvation, and we become part of the royal priesthood.
Peter does not speak of the ministerial priesthood, but a priesthood meaning a clean, honest and wonderful worship that we must attribute to Christ. Do you remember the first pages of the Bible, the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel? Abel offered God the most precious lambs of his flock, Cain offered the worst fruits of agriculture that he had grown. We can be Abel or we can be Cain. This division is unfortunately also present in us priests and bishops. We too, when celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice, while being in itself of infinite value, we present it to God with dirty hands if we do not live in a state of grace or with clean hands if we follow the teaching of our Master.
We must therefore recognize Jesus in our lives, let us be molded by his grace and follow his teachings. All those who identify with these values become a holy nation. Each nation is identified by its history, culture and tradition. We become a holy nation if we identify with those who strive to live in love, grace and friendship with God. From holy nation we can become people of God.
In the world there are two peoples: those of God and those of his adversary. By saying people of God I am not constraining to Christianity only, for also members of other religions who live their own religion honestly belong to God. Even for them, and we had this so many times as teaching, there is salvation in life and eternal glory after death. We are part of God's people.
Gioele has joined the people of God. Who must defend the children from the danger to be away from the people of God? You parents and godparents too, have this delicate task. Physical health is important: how many nights do you spend if a child is sick, how many doctors are consulted and how many sacrifices, sparing no expense, do you face if a child is physically sick. And spiritually? The commitment of parents is to care also about the soul's health. If this is not done, you do not love your child as you should. God loves us because we have soul and body. We must love our children because they have soul and body and we have to care about the one and the other. It is difficult to be parents in today's world, where everything seems against Christ, his teachings and our values. It's hard to be a Christian parent, but if we want to save our children from evil we must do whatever is possible and impossible, so they may be always loved by God and, in their turn, love God.
What is the use to have Baptism and then disengage? How many parents bring their children for baptism and think that everything is over with refreshments or a reception? All parents remember their children's day of birth, but how many remember their children's day of baptism? It means that they did not understand the importance of being "A chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation and people of God". You have it figured out and then added the party for our children, and I say this not only for Gioele, but for all our children, some of whom I see here and I greet them with affection. Ask your parents when you were baptized and demand from your parents to have a little party also on the anniversary of Baptism. Don't you like to have an additional party anymore? Don't you like to have one more opportunity to receive some small gifts? So be smart and put into practice what I am saying: get to know the day of Baptism and if your parents forget it, Remind them on the previous day saying: "Mom, Dad, tomorrow is the anniversary of my Baptism". Do you like it? This initiative to have the Baptism feast will reverberate throughout the Church. May God bless you, bless us, keep us always united in His love and in mutual love. Praised be Jesus Christ.