As I have been reflecting on the baptism of the Lord, I started reflecting on my own baptism. Like most of you, I was baptized as an infant; my godparents did my profession of faith. My parents raised me in the faith. Like many of you I was confirmed around fourth grade and was told that I was going to be “soldier for Christ” and would need to suffer for the faith (remember the tap or slap on the cheek). I have had my moments of asking why do stay in the Catholic Church and is there even a God. So, what is it about my baptism that keeps me in the Church? The grace of God’s love that began on that day. I have gone many times into the desert and met Jesus. He has been there for me so many times even when I didn’t want him there. In that desert, I have found a joy that nothing else can match. I have realized that it is fun being a Catholic even though it has not always been easy. For me as a priest, the privilege of celebrating the Sacraments at important moments in your lives and every weekend to gather with you at the Holy Table is one of my greatest joys. We’ve lost some of the things that set us apart. Never eating meat on Friday(a hard for those of us who don’t like fish!), fasting on Wednesday and Friday during Lent, having our throats blessed, May home altars, Confession every Saturday to go to Holy Communion on Sunday, carrying and saying the Rosary, novenas, blessed water or oils from shrines, making the sign of the Cross on our foreheads every time we passed a Catholic Church, blessing of homes during Epiphany and after Easter, praying at the cemetery, having a crucifix in our homes and St Christopher in the car, and that list continues. Did superstition get wrapped around some? Yes. Did the Church need to connect mortal sin to some of these practices? No. However, it set us apart and made us who we are: A Baptized Roman Catholic. We need to celebrate our identities as baptized Roman Catholics: a child of God, a brother of Jesus, and a temple of the Spirit, which is not a new teaching, just something that may have not been emphasized, but it was lived, at least, in my home. Some of my fondest memories are connected with my faith: the realization one day as I stood at the baptismal font of my home parish baptizing my cousin’s baby how many of my family had been baptized at the very same font and there were a lot. As I had the privilege of celebrating Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Poland and in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and the joy and peace I have at the Oratory of St Joseph in Montreal. I have also known God’s comfort in the tough times, too. Today, I invite you to celebrate the joy of being a follower of Jesus and a Roman Catholic. I am not advocating seeing ourselves as better than other faiths because there is truth there, too. We have been baptized into the truth of our Faith and into a way of life that is rich and beautiful. I realized this week that my baptism and yours, needs to bring me joy and not anger or frustration. Do I have my questions about some of the doctrine, but I realized that I was baptized into a relationship with Jesus not with a doctrine. Jesus is the cause of our joy and the center of our lives as Catholics. I come to this Eucharist every week because I want to; or more realistically because I need to. I can’t live with out it and my deepest sorrow is that many people who say they are Catholics prior to the pandemic did not share my deepest conviction. Yes, since the pandemic we have had to stay home and be safe, but after this is over, I am afraid we will not get people back. If we could fill these pews years ago; then, we can again. However, this time, people will be here because they will see the joy we have as being Roman Catholic with a love of the Mass and a love for the mission. Here, we can be a community of imperfect humans who are willing to be proud of who we are and willing to do the mission that is ours in baptism. Remember the theme I set at the beginning of the year: Who are we as a church? We need to celebrate that we are Roman Catholic proud of our faith and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.