March 5, 6, & 7, 2006
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph
Bishop Patrick J. McGrath
Today, dear catechumens, you begin your final test. It is not a test of knowledge of Scripture, or the catechism, or even the disciplines of the Catholic faith. You have already shown that the seeds of God’s word, the teaching of the Church, and the practices of prayer, study, community, and service are deeply planted within you; otherwise, you would not have been sent by your parishes to the Cathedral today.
No, today, your test goes deeper than knowledge or discipline. It will be a test of surrender and mission, a test of faith in the face of death, a test of hope when all seems lost, a test of love when all you receive is rejection.
Today, your godparents will attest to the power of God already working within you. They will testify that you have listened to God’s word. That word has already fed you on your journey and will continue to be a source of nourishment when your hunger is greatest. But it will also be a word that will pierce your heart; it will be a word to divide and cut through words of falsehood, hatred, and bigotry. This word will feed you, and it will also challenge you.
Your godparents will testify that you have responded to God’s word by walking the path of Christ. That path has been filled with joy, and I believe that you have already experienced the peace of walking with God. But that path has also been filled with times of doubt and uncertainty, perhaps within yourself, or from family or friends who don’t understand why you have chosen this path. If you continue this path, you will also find yourself in different places where you will have to choose between power and vulnerability, between apathy and mission, between a faith that gives easy, black and white answers and a faith that remains even when the answers are not so clear or easy.
Your godparents will testify that you have shared the company of the Church, joining in its prayer and communal life. That community has already shown you great love and has given you a place where you are accepted. But that community has already and will continue to mark you as different from what the world requires and expects. The world will tell you to hate your enemies; this community will tell you to love them. The world will tell you to store up your riches, live the “good life,” grab more power, vote for the one who will make your life easier, be an individual; but this community will tell you to give not only your cloak but your shirt as well, take care of the orphan, the widow, and the outcast, put on Christ, lose yourself, take up the cross, give away all you have, give away even your life.
This is what baptism is about. This is what the season of lent is about. This is what being Catholic is about. This is what you must be about if you will give your name to God today.
- If you give your name to God today, you will be signed up by God to do the work of Christ on the earth.
- If you give your name to God today, you will be given a new name at your baptism—you will be given the name of Christ so that you can do the work of Christ in this world.
- If you give your name to God today, you will be enlisted to make the kingdom more visible, not in the future, not once you get to heaven, but now, today, here.
- If you give your name to God today, you must proclaim as Christ did that now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation, today the poor are blessed, today heaven is theirs.
The word that you have known, your godparents, and this community who have walked with you, and the strength of the Eucharist that you will soon share at this table: all these will accompany you from the day of your baptism as you do the work of Christ with us. All you have to do is surrender yourself, surrender your name, surrender your life to the life-giving cross of Christ.
This test of surrender and mission will be difficult. But you will not be alone. When you put your name on the line, when you put your life on the line, you will not be alone. You are already members of this community, and you will soon be members of the Body of Christ, never to face trial and temptation alone again.
Give all you have to God—your name, your life, your love—and receive in return the love that has no end, receive the eternal life of God, receive the name that is above every other name. Receive Christ and be known by his name so that today and everyday may be a day of salvation.