An old friend recently commented that the two most important days of our life are the day we are born and the day we are re-born. It caught my attention because I assumed the second day was going to be the day we die; it also struck me that I have been quite remiss in appreciating the gift of Baptism.
Perhaps that fact that I love celebrating my birthday has helped compensate for this oversight. Indeed, I probably owe my family an apology for often stretching my birthday out for many days and periodically even claiming the entire month of March as my own! My birthday has always spoken of the gift of life. It hearkens to the love of my parents and to their openness to sharing that love. It reminds me of the miraculous way that God continues to create unrepeatable and eternal souls in and through the love of man and woman. Of course, another birthday is also just a good excuse to celebrate!
But what about my Baptism, the day I was re-born? Jesus clearly states that "no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above," and then he goes on to explain that this means "being born of water and Spirit" (Jn 3:3,5). I know that I have been "born again" in Baptism through a sheer act of God's grace. I also understand and appreciate that I have been offered a share in the kingdom of God, through no credit of my own. However, I've never tracked down my baptismal date, nor have I considered its importance when reflecting upon the countless ways Christ has reached out to me throughout my life.
Don't get me wrong: I definitely loved my children's Baptisms. I have very fond memories of the days when my wife and I had our five children baptized. They were moments of wonder and joy, key steps in our adventure in grace together. But up to this point in our family life, we haven't marked these days in any unique way, though I think I might start surprising my kids on their baptismal dates. After all, Pope Francis himself recently emphasized that the anniversary of our Baptism is a "Date to Remember", and it's never too late to start some new family traditions.
Of course, many people grow weary of celebrating birthdays as they get older. Maybe it's the fact that the passing of time seems to accelerate with each successive year; maybe it's due to the inevitable increase of physical ailments, the loss of loved ones, and the impending question of death. It makes me wonder whether celebrating our baptismal dates would be a great alternative: Maybe people would feel more joyful and even hopeful if the focus shifted to the fact that our Baptism has made "younger than sin" and "stronger than death."
Thanks to this new life in Christ, we receive our deepest identity as adopted sons and daughters in the Son. And if life itself is worth living, then new life is definitely worth celebrating.