Awake or not, many of us at baptism became ambassadors. Along with water and oil, we received a portfolio of privileges and responsibilities and a commission to spread the Gospel.
The portfolio demands a relationship with God and we have tools to nurture the relationship. Number one is prayer. It’s easy. As Woody Allen once said of life, “90 percent is just showing up.” Prayer can be as extensive as a week’s retreat or as brief as a pause to ask “Where did I see the face of God today?” But we have to show up.
Prayer grounds us. It can make us so grounded that, as someone once wrote on a poster, if accused of being a Christian we’d be convicted. The late Tim Russert was a man of prayer. It helped him stand for Governor Bob Casey when he was kept from speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention because of his pro-life stand. People criticized Russert, then the moderator of “Meet the Press,” for standing up for Casey. “They outed me, a la ‘Well, Russert’s a Catholic, you know,” said Russert. “What would you expect?’” He stood for fairness and was convicted – for standing for principle.
The portfolio carries responsibilities. Christians belong to a community. It holds that others are holy, not things to be used or goods to be discarded. A woman who volunteered with Mother Teresa in Calcutta told how she got into the work. Her husband was a diplomat in India. Many evenings they’d go out to embassy receptions and then come home to find the poor lying in their portico. They had to step over them to get inside. “If you had any heart at all, you had to try to alleviate the suffering,” she said. She’d translated the tale of the Good Samaritan and also might be convicted of being a Christian.
Hope stands tall in the Christian portfolio. Death is not an ending. Hope lets us say more than “he was a great guy.” It offers something to hold on to. The deceased has found a better life. Through the Communion of Saints, both living and dead, we’re still in touch with those who’ve passed on.
Faith is for more than ourselves. A friend with teens visited a mother whose son had drowned. As they left home, her children gave her the godmother speech, as in “God, Mother! Don’t say anything.” She promised they would not be embarrassed and told the grieving mother, “You know, you will see him again.” The children were aghast but the neighbor came by later to talk about when she would see her son again.
Today’s fierce political speech challenges Christians. There is nothing quite like mud wrestling to draw our lesser side. Verbal brawling degrades us, but efforts toward civil discourse can counter this. A Lenten exercise might be to write a positive response to a negative blog post. Since we’re all children of God we’re addressing family.
Life can be rough, but baptism’s commission to spread the message of Christ, equips us for the journey. The anointing with water and oil always takes hold.