The 19 Words that Changed My Life | Homily on the Anniversary of My Baptism

Brother, forgive me
We both know I’m the one to blame.
When I saw my demons
I knew them and welcomed them.

But I’ll come around
Someday.

Father, have mercy
I know that I have gone astray.
When I saw my reflection
It was a stranger beneath my face.

But I’ll come around
Someday.

When I touch the water,
They tell me I could be set free.
— (“The Lament of Eustace Scrubb”, the Oh Hellos)

26 years ago on this date, I touched the water and was set free.

On July 12, 1992 at Incarnation church in Crestwood,
I was baptized!

26 years ago, some deacon I’ve never met spoke the 19 words the changed my life forever.

“Ryan, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The moment those words were spoken became the most important moment,
not just in my young life, not just in my faith life, not just in terms of vocation or priesthood.
My baptism was the most important moment in my whole existence as a human person.

On that day, I was cleansed of my original sin, became a member of the body of Christ, was made a temple of the Holy Spirit and an heir to the kingdom of heaven. More than these, I was chosen and adopted by God the Father to be one of his children. What a gift!

When we adopt a child, we don’t just walk up to a baby vending machine, punch in a code, and take home our winnings. We spend time with the child, get to know the child, the child gets to know us, and when the time is right we make the free choose that child. God does the same thing with us. He isn’t forced to adopt us, but he freely chooses to do it that we might freely choose him.

But I remember approximately 0% of my baptism day. I only know that this day is important because there were people in my life – parents, and grandparents, and teachers, and priests, and all kinds of people – who told me what happened to me and that it was important. More than their teaching, it has been the witness of so many who believe that their own baptism is important that has shown me the joy of living the Christian life.

I have made mistakes, and I continue to make them.
The promises I’ve made, I continue to break them.
All the doubts I’ve faced, I continue to face them.

And the sun, it does not cause us
The sun it does not cause us to grow,
It is the rain that will strengthen your soul.

We have lived in fear, and our fear has betrayed us.
We will overcome the apathy that has made us,
‘cause we are not alone.
We are not alone in the dark with our demons.
We have made mistakes, but we’ve learned from them.
— (“I Have Made Mistakes”, the Oh Hellos)

Baptism doesn’t make us perfect, it doesn’t mean we’ll never make mistakes. Today I showed up in the sacristy at 6:20 only to discover I have the 8am Mass instead of 6:30 like I thought!

Certainly my sins and shortcomings are many, but this doesn’t mean that I have somehow become unworthy of Christ. I meet him in my joy and strength, but this is because he has turned my poverty, sorrow, and weakness into joy and strength.

We meet him in the reality, the real experiences of our lives. Just because those experience aren’t always “picture perfect” doesn’t mean he is somehow far from us or that we are somehow far from him.

I encourage each of you to find out your own baptism day and celebrate it. You better believe I’m going to Al’s for dinner tonight!

Also on this day, 7 years ago, I was accepted as a seminarian by the Diocese of Joliet. You never know what will happen on your baptism day.

I am so grateful for the gift of my baptism, for the gift of being a Christian. I am happy to be a priest, and am grateful that God has called me to serve here with you. I am filled with joy today!