This is the spring of life that waters the whole world,
Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ.
Sinner, to be purified, go down into the holy water. — Inscription on the Lateran Baptistery
During the proclamation of the Gospel during yesterday’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, for whatever reason I had a flash memory that dates back to the Fall of 1987. It’s very simple, so for what it’s worth here it is.
I had experienced a life-altering encounter with Christ in February of that year, and spent the subsequent months trying to figure out what on earth had happened to me and what to do with this whole new world that had opened up to me. It was thrilling and frightening all at once. The combination of the divine wildfire that was burning in me and the loss of a girlfriend, and several other friends who thought I’d gone mad, had caused me tremendous stress.
My flash memory was of me walking across the Florida State campus one hot afternoon right after I had gotten out of class. I remember I was praying to God with great frustration, and said something like this: “God, you’ve caused this mess. You have to help me get through all this. It’s just too much too fast!” I recall so vividly that right at that very moment a heavy afternoon shower — the kind that begins with giant drops — suddenly let loose and drenched both me and my backpack. I started laughing so hard I fell to the ground and shouted aloud, without a hint of self-consciousness, “Okay, enough! I get the point!”
Anyone looking at me certainly would have thought I was in the midst of a psychotic break.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew there was strange grace in that rain. Along with the unbridled freedom that came with this unexpected moment of totally letting go, a deep sense of God’s playfulness filled me. I sat still on the pavement until the rain ended, still laughing, and realized in those moments I felt freer than I ever had in my whole life. It was like a second baptism, and its power, from that day forward in the weeks and months ahead, turned my stress into determination and trust.
“When the Savior is washed, all water is cleansed.” I think if I had read these words of St. Maximus of Turin as I sat there on the ground, I would have nodded and smiled.
Grace is everywhere.
In honor of this Mystery, I will leave you with a recording my daughter Maria helped me upload to YouTube. It’s from 2015. My wife and one of her choir members nicknamed “CC” were rehearsing before Mass in the stairwell of the church. I decided to quietly sneak in and record it, unbeknownst to Patti….