Give to the Light
Homily for the Baptism of Elizabeth Simms Dedman during the Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Preached on January 8, 2012 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
In English, we simply say that a mother gives birth to her child. But, in Italian, to give birth is dare alla luce; in Spanish, it is dar a luz. In both these romance languages, the mother not only delivers her newborn into the world; she is said to give her child to the light. It is a beautiful expression that emphasizes the destiny of all humanity: none of us are meant to dwell in the darkness; all of us are called to live in the light (cf. 1 Jn. 1:6-7).
For some nine months or less, this infant was nourished in the dark waters of her mother’s womb, her face hidden from plain sight. But, now she is no longer just a twinkle in her father’s eyes; Simms has been brought forth by her mother into the light of day, and we see her face to face.
Today, her mother again gives Simms to the Light. Once she was brought forth into the gaze of the rising sun; today Simms is handed over into the arms of the Risen Son. She will pass through the waters of baptism to “receive the light of Christ” (cf. Rite of Baptism 100). From the womb of Holy Mother Church she will be born again “by water and the Holy Spirit” (cf. Rite of Baptism 83; 91; 98; 105). The priest will act as the midwife for this rebirth and God our Father will claim her as His own. The mystery that has been revealed by the Spirit to the holy apostles and prophets will become a reality in her life: she will be made “a coheir, a member of the same body, a copartner in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
It is but fitting that we celebrate this Sacrament of Baptism on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. This feast traditionally commemorates three events which manifested that “the Lord, the Mighty One, has come” (Mal. 3:1) in our very flesh: the adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the wedding at Cana. In each instance we realize that the Lord, whom we thought was hidden away in some distant Heaven, has entered into the realm of our senses: his star was seen by the Magi, the voice of His Father is heard thundering over the Jordan, the wine of His compassion is relished at the wedding feast. This is the great epiphany of this feast: rather than leaving us in the dark, the Lord has brought us face to face with Him. And His face, we have found, was that of an innocent and defenseless child who poses not a threat, as Herod had assumed, but an invitation to behold Him in His glory.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that “darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples, but upon [Jerusalem] the Lord shines and over [Her] appears His glory (cf. Is. 60:2). This Light that had come for Jerusalem comes also today for this child. Let us give her to Him who is Light from Light (cf. Niceno-Constantinapolitan Creed) so that she too might “walk always as a child of the light” (Rite of Baptism 100; cf. Jn. 12:38; Eph. 5:8). And may you, parents and godparents, to whom this light is entrusted, keep the flame of faith in her heart burning brightly (cf. Rite of Baptism 100). Help her make her little light shine so that it might always guide her as she passes through the shadows of this world to the brightness of our eternal home.