Fr. Joe's Homily from January 11th/12th

It’s 6:28 on a Saturday night. The radio announcer thanks his listeners for listening (who knows how many there are in Manitowoc), and he lets the record run as he runs out the door. He’s gone. My lifeline.

I’m now all by myself. There is not a single person in the radio station building. It hits me that I’m responsible for these airwaves, until midnight, five and a half hours. My seventeen-year-old mind recalls my radio license test.“The Federal Communications Commission may very well be listening,” I could be fined and imprisoned if I make a mistake.

The 45-record “Lay, Lady Lay,” by Bob Dylan was already cued up for me. Not my first choice for my first radio musical selection that I’ll remember the rest of my life. Bob finishes singing, and either you hear shhh-shhh-shhh, (Children: ask your parents what that sounds means) or you turn on the microphone for the very first time and attempt to say something intelligent.

“Baptism by fire,” it’s called. Forget the water, this is a do-or-die fire for $2.70 an hour.

What’s your first baptism by fire? It a phrase that describes someone learning something the hard way through a challenge or difficulty. Semi-prepared. Excited. Dread. Anticipation. A frozen fear. A dream come true, at least for me, as a high school junior. Mistakes, mishaps, stutterings, blaming others, blaming yourself - or is it showing us that the baptism hasn’t completely taken root. The water’s planted all right. But the roots? Those darn roots.

I hold out for those two m’s: mistakes and mishaps. Our greatest tutor is uncovered through those two m’s. What better time for the intercession of the Holy Spirit than when we think we’ve got it all under control, and she gently or loudly intervenes and alerts us to sort out our two m’s.

John, whose last name is Baptist, introduced us to the sacrament. Jesus Christ thoroughly infuses us with the sacrament through the power of the Holy Spirit - and fire.

When did Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit fully baptize you?

We never know when a daunting obstacle or severe challenge will present itself in our lives. A new mom with a colicky baby, your first speech in front of the class and you swear that you’re, indeed, not wearing pants, a mother of two youngsters loses her husband to cancer, a parent buries a son or daughter, a husband who always seems to be two drinks ahead of you, (or my favorite) the sixty-year-old daughter becomes the parent to her eighty-five-year-old mother. “Eat your vegetables!” “I don’t wanna!” Fiery Baptisms.

Eliminated, not fired from a wonderful job I held for a third of my life. And it’s a Catholic place! Some people asked me if it affected my faith. I wanted to say, “That’s a stupid question!” Instead, I clearly replied that “Nothing can affect my faith.”

And here we thought that the first and primary sacrament of our Christian lives was that one-time deal. Our absolute and full baptisms frequently occur throughout life.

The fire of the Holy Spirit baptizes us again and again. Water alerts (John the Baptist). Fire burns deeply inside us (Jesus Christ).

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