The following is the reflection I gave at our new son’s baptism.
“On coming up out of the water [Jesus] saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:10-11, my brackets
Venerable Fulton Sheen was once approached by a man and asked, “Are you the Bishop Sheen who gave the mission sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral two years ago?” Sheen replied, “Yes, I am.” The man exclaimed, “That was a wonderful sermon! I enjoyed every minute of that hour and a half.” The Bishop protested, “My good man, I have never talked an hour and a half in my life!” “Well,” the man said, “it seemed that long to me.”
You will be happy to know, in mercy to the young ones and those who mind them, as well as to all of our hungry stomachs, this reflection will not be an hour and a half! Hopefully, it will not seem like it is either.
“You are my beloved son…” It is one thing to know this intellectually – as a statement of fact, as it appears in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved son…” It is quite another to know it personally – as a tender word spoken by the Father to our hearts: “You are my beloved son…” Mark’s account emphasizes this personal voice. It is Jesus who hears the voice of the Father – the voice that confirms his true identity and vocation. We can hear in these words an echo of those spoken by God to King David: “You are my son – this day I have begotten you” (Ps. 2:7). It is a personal word, a personal call, a word spoken to my heart and to yours. And today, in a special way, it is a word spoken to Crosby Fulton’s little heart.
Today, the Father has called Crosby Fulton by name to be his son. In truth, God called him before the world began, he had carved his name on the palm of his hand. As long as God has been God, he has been thinking of Crosby. Crosby was begotten in Shannon’s womb and born on September 10, he is begotten as an adopted child of God by water and the spirit today, but he was begotten first in the mind of God from all eternity. It should be a great comfort to us and a boost to our self-esteem to know that God has been thinking about us for a very long time.
That voice of the Father that speaks to Crosby’s heart, that voice that calls to him – it is our job as his family and as Church to help Crosby to hear that voice, to listen for that call. We do this first and foremost by revealing to him, through our love, the truth of his own belovedness. But we also must teach him. It is one thing to be born; it is another to grow up! And maturing means learning. (And sometimes, incidentally, learning means falling down. As an aside, St. Therese of the Child Jesus – whose feast we celebrate today and who taught the “little way” of spiritual childhood – wrote that we should not become discouraged over our faults, because “children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much.” That is reassuring!)
So what do we need to teach Crosby? I think it can be summed up in an example from the life of Mother Teresa – the newly canonized saint of Calcutta who took her name and spiritual doctrine from St. Therese of the Child Jesus. On September 10, 1946 (exactly 70 years before Crosby Fulton’s birth), a day that Mother Teresa always viewed as the beginning of the Missionary Sisters of Charity and is celebrated every year by them as “Inspiration Day,” Mother Teresa was traveling on a train to Darjeeling, India for her annual retreat as a Loreto Sister. On that train ride she had a mystical encounter with Jesus and experienced locutions, that is, she heard the voice of Jesus speaking directly to her. From that day, she would always refer to “The Voice” that spoke to her. The Voice pleaded with her to come: to come and carry him into the dark holes of the poor; to come and be his light. Then it pressed her, “Wilt thou refuse?” The rest is history. At the end of her life, Mother Teresa was overheard praying to Jesus saying, “Lord, you know that I have never refused you anything.”
This sums up what we need to teach Crosby Fulton: to be Jesus’ light in a dark world and never to refuse Jesus anything. And the best way we will teach him this is by doing it ourselves.
May Venerable Fulton Sheen pray for little Crosby Fulton. And I will conclude this reflection the way he would have…
God love you!