Having stayed up a bit later than usual on Saturday evening (in order to finish a long movie), I found myself waking up late and only barely in time for my local parish’s 12 PM Mass. As I approached the church, I noticed the parking lot seemed fuller than usual; inside I found the same phenomenon: people everywhere; especially odd was a very large number of young couples and children. At first, I thought it might have something to do with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Shrugging it off, I found some standing room near the baptismal font. Only once the homily had commenced did it become clear: this Mass wasn’t just about Christ’s baptism; two babies were to be christened there and then!
Further, I couldn’t get away from the font, meaning I ended up in at least two families’ baptism photos. There I was, the young-adult loner hanging out at the back of the church, now present in the physical memories of that momentous day for those present. To be honest, when I first realized what was going on, I considered trying to get outside the church until the baptisms were complete: I felt alone, out of place, and, frankly (and uncharitably) like my routine of going to Mass had been disturbed. But, I stayed! And I’m much happier for it, because staying forced home an insight I otherwise might not have come away with: that day wasn’t just about the Baptism of Christ, nor about those of those babies, but about my own and those of all present, about the continued holiness we are called to as new creations in God.
During the ceremony, the entire congregation was asked to renew its baptismal vows, which we all did; holy water was also sprinkled upon us. What a joyous moment I would have missed out on because of fear! What a call to repentance I would have been deaf to if not for my inability to go anywhere! But apart from the obvious that God is always with us and guides our lives, stands the less clear (and harder) truth that we are called to radical transformation in Christ, that baptism, while only once, summons us to promises we must keep for a lifetime.
And so, I found myself, reaffirming my own baptism in the church in which I had been baptized, and all because I had stayed up a little bit too late watching Barry Lyndon. God truly does work in mysterious ways, but, perhaps more importantly, he calls us to act in holy ways often mysterious to the world.