The Greatest Day of Our Lives
11/1/2018Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori
In the life-changing event of baptism, we are reborn as adopted sons and daughters of God
WHAT HAS BEEN the greatest day of your life? Was it the day you met or married your spouse? The day your child came into the world? The day you landed a job you were seeking? When I was ordained to the priesthood in 1977, someone said to me, “This must be the greatest day of your life.” And it was an incredibly joyous and grace-filled day to be sure — but it was not the greatest day. No, the greatest day was the day of my baptism.
For the majority of you, like me, the great event of your baptism probably took place a short time after you were born. Unless you were baptized and received into the Church as a young person or an adult, you won’t remember that utterly life-changing moment of sacramental grace.
This brief event, which likely took place quietly at the back of a church with only a few people present, was greater than anything else that could happen to us. In other words, our greatest day actually occurred before most of us could walk or talk or even feed ourselves. Whether or not we’ve thought about it or are convinced of it, the day of our baptism will be eclipsed by only one other day — the day when, by God’s grace, we enter the Kingdom of Heaven, gazing at the Trinity in adoration with all the redeemed.
What, then, constitutes the greatness of baptism? Jesus answers this question in the Gospel of John when he says to Nicodemus: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Holy Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Through baptism, we enter into the life of the Trinity, and this new reality can only be described as a rebirth into a wholly new way of life and love.
In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). This is to say that we begin to share God’s Triune life by being immersed (baptized) into Christ, sharing personally and intimately in his death and resurrection by which he saves us from our sins.
In sharing the life of Christ, we also share in the life of his Bride, the Church. In baptism, we become members of the Body of Christ. Baptism is the gateway to the entire sacramental life of the Church, most especially the Eucharist, in which we join with our fellow Christians in sharing in the one sacrifice of Christ that brings salvation to all. Our baptismal innocence is recovered and renewed by the sacrament of reconciliation. In baptism, we also receive a vocation to love as Jesus did — to bear witness to the Gospel of Love by putting into practice a generous, forgiving love extended to all, most especially to those in need. This baptismal calling to love receives specific form as we come of age. Many are called to fulfill their baptismal call in the vocation of marriage and family. Others are called to the priesthood and consecrated life, and still others live good and holy lives while remaining single men and women.
I’d like to suggest that living and serving as a Knight of Columbus is a most important way of responding to our baptismal call to love and service. By living the principles of charity, unity and fraternity, we deepen our sharing in the life of the Trinity; we grow in our capacity to imitate Christ; and we are immersed more fully in the life and mission of the Church.
Let us therefore live each day the principles of the Order, never forgetting to give God thanks for the greatest day of our lives.