I am writing this on Thursday 18th March. It is my 70th birthday. “Oh no”! I hear you saying, “You’ve had that already.” Well, yes and no… You see you are right. I have had the 70th anniversary of my physical birth, but today is the 70th anniversary of my spiritual birth since today is the 70th celebration of my Baptism. I know who my Godparents were but I don’t remember ever meeting them at an age that I would have remembered them. I still have the silver napkin ring with my initials on it that one of my late aunts gave me. Alas the silver rosary beads given me by my Godparents were stolen from our baggage on the way to Australia in 1955. But I do know that I was baptised by Canon Cristall in St Joseph’s Church at Epsom. When I was young I thought I must have been very important to have been baptized by a Canon!
Now, the question I find myself asking myself this year as you may well have done too, is, if I have been a Christian now for 70 years, what have I done about it ? It’s a bald and quite tough question. I suppose I can let myself off for the first few years but as I grew older I knew what I was doing and was responsible for my actions, so, once again, what have I done about being a Christian? Some might say, “…well, you are a priest so look at how much you have by being a priest”. That is very kind, but it doesn’t really let me off the hook. You see the truth lies in how much and how strongly have I tried or have I just let it all happen, and has my heart and soul been in it?
The answer for me, this year I think, lies in the lenten Mass readings. Again and again the writers of the Old Testament Scriptures that we have listened to remind us of all the mess ups that the people of Israel made – and there were some very big ones. Yet, despite all this God kept faith with them and drew them back, reminding them all the time of his love and forgiveness. That has to be the key to it all. There is a real danger that we can, and sometimes do, drift along without really focusing. But then comes an event like today is for me and suddenly everything comes into focus and, recognizing how blessed and loved we are, we can make a firm promise of amendment and hear the good Lord saying something like, “Well done Peter, my boy, now, on we go, together!”