ATTENTION all parents and godparents, educators and evangelists!

ATTENTION all parents and godparents, baptized and adoptive families!

ATTENTION all educators and evangelists, teachers and preachers!

What the Pope said today could become a new year’s resolution for all of us…

Stay connected to Christ through His Word, Sacraments, and prayer if you are to witness and teach, educate and mature the faith of those entrusted to your care.

Believe strongly in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, invoke Him and receive Him in you through prayer and the sacraments.

Claim nothing as your own, especially not your mission-effectiveness or “your” disciples, but like John the Baptist (and all other Christmas characters) point to Christ alone at all times.

These are among the things the Holy Father said to parents and godparents on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, as he baptized 16 children in the Sistine Chapel (Sunday, January 8, 2012.)

He called us all to remember the duty we have undertaken to be educators in the Faith, witnesses to Christ, Christ-bearers, light-bearers, men and women of prayer who learn God from God and teach God to the children and youth entrusted to our spiritual care.

In his homily for the Baptism of Our Lord, the pope spoke of witnessing, of proclaiming, of announcing and educating others in the Faith… humbly and prayerfully a theme highlighted throughout the entire Christmas Season with its many feasts and figures.

What the Pope said should become a new year’s resolution for all of us…

The pope began by reminding the parents and godparents and all present that they had come, as they stated, so that their newborn children might receive “the gift of the grace of God, the seed of eternal life.” They have asked the Church for baptism for their children, “the sacrament that marks the entrance into the Christian life. We can say that this was your first educational choice as a witness of faith to your children, the fundamental choice. The task of parents aided by the godparents is to educate your son or daughter. To educate is very challenging; it is sometimes difficult for our human capacities which are ever limited. But education is a wonderful mission if it is accomplished in partnership with God – He who is the first and true educator of every man”, the pope said.

God speaks to His people just like an educator in the First Reading , the pope continued: “He tries to warn the children of Israel of the danger of trying to quench their thirst and hunger from the wrong sources: ‘Why spend money for what is not bread, your earning for what does not satisfy?’ (Is 55) God wants to give us good things to eat and drink, things that are good for us; but sometimes we misuse our resources: we use them, in fact, for things that are even harmful. God wants to give us, above all, Himself and especially His Word. He knows that if we distance ourselves from Him we will soon find ourselves in difficulty, like the prodigal son in the parable, and above all, lose our human dignity. For this reason, He assures us that He is infinite mercy; that His thoughts and His ways are not like ours – fortunately for us – that we can always come back to the Father’s house; and then He assures us that, if we accept His word it will bring forth good fruit in our lives, as the rain that waters the earth.”

We draw from various good sources “for our own good and for those entrusted to our care”, the pope continued as he addressed especially the parents and godparents reflecting on the Psalm’s “wellsprings of salvation.” These wellsprings are “the Word of God and the Sacraments. Adults are the first ones who must nourish themselves from these sources in order to guide the young ones in their growth… Parents must (also) receive; otherwise they will become empty and dried up. Parents are not the sources, just like we priests are not the source: rather, we are channels through which must pass the lifeblood of God’s love. If we detach from the source, we ourselves will become adversely affected, and we will no longer be able to educate others. This is why we proclaim together: ‘We will draw with joy at the wellsprings of salvation.’ (Isaiah 12)”

The Pope, commenting on the Second Reading and the Gospel, spoke of witnessing, calling John the Baptist “a great teacher of his disciples because he led them to the encounter of Jesus of whom he had witnessed. He did not exalt himself. He did not want to keep his disciples for himself. John was a great prophet: his fame was very great. When Jesus arrived, he pulled back and pointed to him: ‘He who comes after me is mightier than I. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mark 1:7-11) The true educator does not bind people to himself; he is not possessive: he wants the child or disciple to learn to know the Truth and establish a personal relationship with it. The teacher fulfills his duty to the end; his careful and faithful presence is never lacking. But his goal is that the student learns the voice of Truth speaking to his heart, and to follow it in a personal journey.”

Making reference to the Second Reading and the Gospel once more where the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove, the Pope spoke of the Holy Spirit as the true witness who reveals and gives witness that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father , the same Holy Spirit which Jesus promised to send upon us that we too may witness to His divinity and glory: “Jesus says to His disciples: ‘When the Paraclete comes whom I will send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will witness to me and you too bear witness to me for you are with me from the beginning.’ This is a great comfort to us in our commitment to teach the Faith because we know that we are not alone, and that our testimony is supported by the Holy Spirit. It is very important for you, parents and godparents, to believe strongly in the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, invoke Him and receive Him within you through prayer and the sacraments. It is He who illuminates the mind and warms the heart of the educator so that he knows how to transmit the knowledge and love of Jesus. Prayer is the first criteria of being a good educator, because by praying we make ourselves available to leave to God the initiative, to entrust the children to Him who knows them first and better than us, and knows what is their true good. And at the same time, when we pray, we listen to God for the inspiration of God to do a good job.” He added that the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist allow us to educate in union with Christ, renewed by His forgiveness, receiving the light of Christ to be tender yet strong, to use gentleness and strength, silence and speech at the right times, and to discipline and correct justly.

The Holy Father invoked the Holy Spirit as he entrusted the children to be baptized to the maternal guidance of Mary that they “become true Christians, faithful and joyful witnesses of God’s love.”

I love the Christmas Season and the main characters highlighted therein for the reasons mentioned by the pope.

The biblical figures highlighted during this Season are giants of faith yet “little people” who (with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, perhaps) are seldom thought of or prayed to by most of us throughout the year and throughout our lives of apostolic outreach. What a loss! These great men and women were among the very first witnesses to the Incarnation! St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist in her womb were, of course, the very first to witness to Christ’s presence during Mary’s Visitation to St. Elizabeth (May 31), soon after the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary (March 31), and we see John the Baptist again today as we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord giving witness to the One who was to come and has come to baptize us in the Holy Spirit and power. But at the Birth of Christ, it is the angels on high, and the shepherds, and the Wise Men, then Simeon and Anna who clearly proclaim the glory of God and adore the Newborn King! These are the first witnesses to Christ’s arrival into our midst, the first to profess and proclaim that the Anointed One has come, He who will anoint and baptize us and give us share in His divine and eternal life. They see and hear, they believe and testify, in simplicity and humility, with great joy and little fanfare and no self-seeking. They seek and find the only One worth drawing attention to: Christ the Lord.

We ought to learn from them.

We ought to imitate them.

We ought to pray to them for their intercession. (I do, at the end of every Rosary!)

We, like they, ought to have eyes and ears and hearts and mouths wide open to see and hear and believe and reveal the God who has revealed Himself to us.

ATTENTION all parents and godparents, baptized and adoptive families!

We who are baptized are all adopted children, adopted into God’s family and thus co-heirs with Christ.

We have been led and have led others to the “agency adoption”, to the Church’s baptismal font where our children and godchildren have been adopted into God’s family and depend on us to mature the faith they have received.

We are all called to know and love and live the Faith because, This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (The Roman Ritual, “The Rite of Baptism for Children,” no. 96) In so doing, we become better educators and evangelists, teachers and preachers to children, youth, and peers alike.

A new year has just begun. Do not abdicate or ignore your call. Make good use of you time, treasure, and talents to know and love and serve the Lord… and to do so better this year than last.

Know that you have been grafted onto to Christ. Know that you have been baptized into His death, “buried with Him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

Know that the light of Christ has been entrusted to you. Know that souls have been entrusted to you. Know that the faith of the children who have given birth too –physically and spiritually– will grow and mature and become strong if your own faith grows and matures and you witness to them what it means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus Our Lord, a true Christian disciple…

 …anointed with the oil of gladness and chrism of salvation that delivers us from evil and the Evil One

…washed clean at the waters of regeneration

…wearing always the white garments of an unsoiled soul

…bearing the light of Christ to all who live in darkness

…accepting the challenges that come from being signed with the Cross of Christ so as to respond valiantly to the Master’s call to take up our cross and follow Him.

ATTENTION all educators and evangelists, teachers and preachers!

Know that if “history has not known a man born of woman greater than John the Baptizer”, as Jesus says in Matthew 11:11, and John the Baptizer insisted in declaring “I am not” when asked who he was, then you and I are not, we are nothing compared to the One we witness to, the One who is to come, the One for whom we prepare the way.

Know that it is Christ who is the great “I AM”, while we are the small “I am not”, “I am nothing” – nothing but a mere “voice that cries in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord!’”, a mere voice that lets the world hear the Word made flesh. We are but mere instruments, and just like the greatest man born of woman we too should consider ourselves, at all times and in every situation, unworthy even to untie the straps on Jesus’ sandals! (Mark 1:1ff)

Know that, if you and I are to be effective educators and evangelists, teachers and preachers, we must at all times and in every situation know who we are and remain humble so as never to take the spotlight, but rather, like the star that led the Wise Men, simply fade into the background. The star had one purpose in the Gospel account: to lead others to Christ. A simple mission. No glory for the star. No feast day for the star. No headlines. No further mention. No praise. The star could well declare what Jesus says you and I must say: “We are unworthy servants who have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)

Fulfill your call with the utmost simplicity and humility, fidelity and care.

Be a star: lead wise men who still seek and find Christ where Christ can be found –in the crib, the cross, the chalice, and the church– and then… disappear, withdraw into the background, your job accomplished once others have found the Christ, the Anointed One, the One who anoints and baptizes and feeds His People with His very Body and Blood, soul and divinity all who come to eat and drink what money cannot buy.

I am an educator and evangelizer, a teacher and preacher.

I would not write what I write and say what I say if I didn’t intend to keep this in the forefront of my mind at all times and in every situation.

I know what is expected of me in this regard – and I call upon the Holy Spirit daily to assist me in every way that I might only and always seek the glory of God and the good of His People, He who wants only and always my good.

I am a parent – a godparent. I have a son and three daughters.

I am the godmother of a little blue-eyed baby boy who so quickly became a handsome young man.

I am the godmother of a sweet, quiet little girl who has become a fine and loving young lady.

I am the godmother of another fine Christian soldier who asked me to be her Confirmation “madrina” and still looks to me to witness to the Faith despite her own maturity in Christ.

I am the godmother of a vivacious eight year-old who calls me her “spiritual mother” and shows signs of herself being an evangelist one day.

I know I have been called to witness to the Faith in a particular way to my three, no, four children. God called me to aid in the spiritual growth of four of His beloved children. I accepted the challenge –and the privilege– of helping them grow in their knowledge and love of God, until they, like I, become another Christ, “holy as the Lord our God is holy.(Matthew 5: 48; Leviticus 11:44)

I accepted the call to do all I can to help their parents keep these children’s light aflame and their garments unsullied; living Monday through Saturday what they profess each Sunday; shouldering the cross; their heads and hearts, ears and mouths anointed by the oil of gladness so that, in hearing the Word of God, they may live it and share it freely.

This year’s celebration of the Baptism of the Lord and the words of the Holy Father have reminded me again of the call placed upon me by the Lord, a call I gladly accepted and cannot neglect:

 …the call to know and live and teach the Faith to my godchildren and to all who God puts in my path

…the call to be a star, one who leads others to the King of kings and disappears once my job is done

…the call to joyfully draw from the wellsprings of salvation and, nourished by Word and sacraments, to await the Second Coming of Christ with the same longing with which Simeon and Anna awaited His First Coming and with the shepherds, the Wise Men, and John the Baptist and his mother received Christ into their hearts, just as Mary and Joseph had received the Christ Child into her womb and his home.

I pray you do the same, dear parent, godparent, educator, evangelist, teacher, and preacher.

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