I performed a baptism this past weekend for a former parishioner from Tucson. She chose the Beatitudes from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount for the Gospel text to be proclaimed, and I sat down and wrote a brief reflection on each of the beatitudes - more for myself, really, as I thought about the connection between them and baptism. I thought I'd share them with you over the next week, since I've not blogged about anything for ages.
Realize, these are just random thoughts - nothing systematic.
Baptism begins a new relationship between Aspen and God. She cannot offer any obstacles to the grace, the new life in the Holy Spirit, that God, Father, Son and Spirit offer her today. When the blessed water is poured over her head, original sin is forgiven, she becomes a daughter of God, her soul is marked with a character making her eligible to participate in the sacramental life of the Church, and she becomes a member of Jesus' body living today.
You make promises today to not only raise her in the Catholic faith, but to introduce her to God who has created her. All of us in the Church are to model for her what it is to be a disciple, and help her live in such a way that she can experience the blessings Jesus describes in the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount.
But these are peculiar blessings, and they have to be modeled and taught. We don't come by them naturally. Jesus and His mother are the best models of actually living the beatitudes he preaches, and I can't help but believe that he was preaching from experience. If that's the case, then we might presume that the blessings Jesus promises begin in this life, and find their fulfillment in heaven in the next. Thus, one of the greatest gifts you can give your daughter is to model for her "beatitude living" and teach her to live this way, too.
Let's look briefly at each of them.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As you may know, in Luke's Sermon on the plain, Jesus says simply, "Blessed are the poor," and I believe that helps us understand what Matthew may be getting at with "poor in spirit." When the rich young man who has followed the commandments from his youth asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit everlasting life?" Jesus responds by saying, "follow the commandments," but he's already done that and senses something's missing. So Jesus tells him to sell all he has – becoming physically poor, reliant on others – and then to come, follow him...become a disciple if he wishes to enter the kingdom. To be a disciple is to follow, and that means allowing another to lead, to make the decisions of which way to go, to trust when you can only see a few steps ahead. To be poor in spirit is to choose dependence over independence, guidance over self-determination, and trust over self-reliance.
Often we refer to headstrong, willful children as "spirited." You must teach Aspen to become poor in spirit. Rather than pursuing her own will, her own designs, you must teach her - and show her - how to make Jesus' will her own – to give up living for herself, relying on herself and her own goodness, and trusting the grace and providence of God to be enough. Teach your daughter to accept the kingdom as a gift, rather than a reward earned. And, help her learn to trust that following Jesus is to begin entering the kingdom now.