A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lord, Have Mercy: A Homily on Mark 10:46-52

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Lord, have mercy.” The words are so simple, and yet so profound. “Lord have mercy.” Three little words in English – and it only takes two in the Greek – and yet so much is packed into those few syllables.

“Lord, have mercy,” or some variation thereof, is spoken on many occasions as a prayer to Jesus. Here, Bartimaeus the blind beggar is excited to hear that Christ has come. He cries out to Christ Jesus with these words of faith and humility.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” In other words: “Master. Savior. I believe that You are the descendant of King David that we are waiting for: the Christ! I will never be good enough to deserve this, but you are my loving God. Give me help. Give me healing. Give me forgiveness and life. Give me all that I need for body and soul. Give me salvation. I have nothing good to give in return. Yet I know You can do all this and more!”

“And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’”

Blessed Martin Luther went through much of the same thing. No, he was not blind, but he came to a fuller knowledge of our Lord, and was crying out in faith. Others around him were rebuking him, telling him to be silent. The Holy Roman Emperor called a special hearing, in which Luther was told to recant of his writings – to take back what he said and wrote. The Empire and the Pope were rebuking Luther, and telling him to be silent. If he refused, he would be an outlaw, and it would be legal to kill him. He would also be excommunicated, and thus cut off from the Sacrament. What was he to do?

Luther followed Bartimaeus’ example: he cried out all the more. “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen!”

The pure teaching of God’s Law had been brought to light once more, and the clear message that we are poor, miserable sinners who can never be good enough for God was proclaimed. And hand-in-hand with that is the pure teaching of the Gospel, with the clear message that in His mercy, God gives His undeserved love and forgiveness that we call “grace.” He redeems us and rescues us from our own wretchedness, and gives forgiveness, life, and salvation as gifts!

The world had slipped into some blindness, losing sight of our Lord’s mercy, relying on our imagined ability to cooperate with God. We were in a spiritual darkness that was fearful of God’s wrath, but had no idea on how to escape it. The time leading up to the Reformation looked at the cross of Christ with His body on it as a grim sign of God’s judgment that we would face – sort of a “This is all your fault!”

Yet that is not the message to the Christian at all. God in His great mercy says: “Look to the crucifix as a most blessed image of My love.” There, the Body of Christ hangs in death, not defeated by death, but victorious! He died, but in dying, He became the Champion! He became the Victor who triumphed! The beaten, bloodied, broken Body of Christ is the clear delivery of the Lord’s mercy! Death was destroyed by His death, so that the lifeless flesh of Jesus on the cross is really the greatest picture of hope! His resurrection then confirmed this great truth.

We can still be blinded. When we think we can cooperate with God for our salvation, we are blinded to the reality of our sinful nature. When we talk about our believing as if we have the power to believe harder or more sincerely, we turn faith into a good work, and end up teaching salvation by works! We end up as blind to God’s grace as some 16th century indulgence sellers.

Dear, blinded friends, our gracious Savior comes and restores our sight. Like He called Bartimaeus to Himself and healed him, He has called you through Holy Baptism, and washed the filth of sin from you, including from your eyes, that you may see.

The Holy Spirit worked on Bartimaeus, giving him faith so that when Jesus called him, he jumped up, tossing off his cloak. And why is that important? As he begged, people would toss coins onto that cloak. He just lost all of the money that people had given him, trusting that he would no longer need it – Jesus was going to heal him!

That day Jesus gave Bartimaeus physical sight. He also healed his soul. And a short time later, as Christ’s own eyelids closed in death, He claimed sight for all who would come to faith.

The Holy Spirit has worked on you too. He has shed from you the old covering of sin, death, and hell, and replaced it in your baptism with forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and the promise of eternal salvation. He has brought you out of darkness into Christ’s marvelous light. He gives you sight, that you can now behold your Lord and God in His preaching and in His Sacraments. He heals you!

We can slip back into moments of blindness. Times when we refuse to see the Gospel touching the lives of students and others here in our church, and school, and over at Luther North. It is easy for humans to become negative and overlook the good blessings that God is giving in these places. There are times when we turn a blind eye to ways we can help instead of rebuking those who would seek the Lord.

But the Lord delivers us, even when we have not wanted it! He calls us to repentance. And He renews our sight, our vision. He gives light to our eyes and leads us in His Word. And from there, He brings countless good things out of the trials and hardships. Throughout all suffering, He carries us, looking it straight in the eye and defeating it in the end.

How? Jesus, the Son of David, [has] mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The scarred hands of our Savior reach out and open our eyes, having endured it all for us. In His grace and mercy, He heals, restores, and gives life everlasting! Our magnificent Messiah re-opens our eyes and fixes them on Him.

He fixes your eyes on Jesus in His Word. And soon He will fix your eyes on Jesus as you behold Him in the Host and Cup. At that time, He will fill you with Himself, so that you cannot but help to cr[y] out all the more: “[Lord], have mercy!”

The Lord has mercy as He comes to you in His Holy Eucharist, filling you with His Body and Blood – the purest forms of His mercy on this earth! Praise God for filling you with His mercy! Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Star Trek and Monty Python

Kristi is convinced that in order to go to seminary, guys have to confirm that they are not only Star Wars and Princess Bride fans, but also Star Trek and Monty Python.

This funny YouTube combines the latter two. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Landspeeder Mayhem

What a hoot! Ben found this on StarWars.com.
Landspeeder Mayhem

Peace Be To This House: A Homily on Luke 10:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Peace be to this house.” Jesus sends 72 missionaries to go before Him and proclaim that He was coming; “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Jesus has come near to you! The Peace of God – in the flesh – has come near to you! The heart of their message is the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus has come and restores us, making us right with God and placing us in a renewed peace with our Father in heaven.

These men were ambassadors for Christ, going into the surrounding towns where He was about to go. They were going in His stead and by His command, carrying the peace of God with them – a gift from Jesus, delivered through the mouths of His ministers.

This is the task of the pastor, placing God’s peace on His people. When Christ’s servants speak His peace, it is not merely a prayer. It is not simply wishful thinking. Jesus says: “The one who hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16.) These men are carrying Christ’s authority. And the Word of the Lord does what it says. So when He bids Christ’s peace, it is given!

God’s peace comes with His help, His healing, and His mercy. Jesus Christ sends the 72 as His voice and hands, bringing His healing presence by speaking His peace and preaching His Gospel to these people. These messengers are acting as Jesus’ first missionaries, beyond the 12 apostles.

Today we celebrate St. Luke, giving thanks to God for the beloved physician who was one of the four evangelists. One tradition says that St. Luke was one of these 72 missionaries. Whether he was or not, our Lord definitely used him to declare His peace, and make known that, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

Today we also celebrate the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. The LWML has spent decades behind the scenes, doing what they can to assist missionaries like the 72. Coins have been collected, resulting in millions of dollars to fund the travels and supplies for those proclaiming, “Peace be to this house.” “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

The LWML also knows that not every missionary or mission is far away. We have a harvest field that is ready for laborers right here. A field in which the Lord is welcoming your labor. You see, you have neighbors. You have family. You have co-workers or fellow students. You have a person or family that used to sit in the pew next to you, or in front of you, or behind you. Where are they? Do you know? Have you tried to call them and let them know they are missed?

Ladies, whether you come to their meetings or not, you are a Lutheran Woman in Mission. And gentlemen, just because you are not a member of this group does not excuse you from sharing the invitation to others that they may come and hear the Word of the Lord, receiving this Gift of God. And kids, you can be missionaries too, simply by telling friends that they can come to hear Jesus in church!

You don’t have to be directly called and ordained by Jesus like these 72, or like a modern pastor, in order to extend invitations and show care. The Lord will gladly use you to be His mouthpiece and show compassion to those around you. Sure, it is not your place to preach, or to baptize or consecrate the Lord’s Supper, but it is for you to be a friendly voice of welcome and an encourager for others to gather with us to receive Christ’s Gifts!

We constantly fail at this, however. We neglect to invite others to the Divine Service. We are too self-conscious, shy, or embarrassed to encourage others to receive Jesus in His proclaimed Gospel. And so we fail to support His message: “Peace be to this house.” If we shy away from His Word, we back off from the kingdom of God that was coming near.

When that is the case, we are refusing God’s peace, and maintaining a broken relationship that is at odds with the Lord. How awful that we are rejecting His peace! We are saying, “No!” to Jesus.

Yet Jesus does not give up on us. He continues to reach out and draw us to Himself. He has suffered the pain and death of the cross in order to purchase and win peace for us. In His blessed sacrifice, He made us right with God, and changed us from enemies of our Creator to dear children of our dear Father. What joy that He has pulled us out of our sinful extremes of introversion and exclusion that keep the Gospel to ourselves! Instead, He blesses us to exclaim, “O Lord, open my lips.” And He gives us the words to invite others to come and hear Him and receive the salvation He gives.

He continues to use you, even now. Our Lord smiles upon this parish, as He provides great opportunities to be instruments of His peace. He graciously bestows His favor, as He grants us moments to be His living invitations to all. He blesses us, that we may deliver a witness in our actions, so others may be inclined to come and see and hear the Lord.

And gathered in this place, our Savior brings that peace to you. The peace He won on the cross He now places into your mouths. The Body and Blood that were slaughtered for your pardon are now risen and glorified, and delivered to you to eat and drink for your salvation.

When your pastor holds up the Body and Blood of Christ after the Words of Our Lord, he says, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” Again, this is not wishful thinking. It is not simply a prayer. It is Christ declaring and giving His peace through His called and ordained servant.

The Prince of Peace brings Himself to restore and renew you, making you His beloved child and faithful witness as you invite others and encourage them to come to church, where the kingdom of God near! Our Lord Jesus bids you today to keep coming, as often as you can, to receive Him in His Sacrament, that you may be at peace with God and dwell secure in His kingdom, here in time, and there in eternity.

Dear friends in Christ, peace be to this house. Amen!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Must I Do? -- A Homily on Mark 10:17-22

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This young, wealthy man comes up to Jesus with this major question, and how does Jesus respond? It is almost as if He is ignoring the question! Instead of answering “What must I do?” at first our Lord stops him dead in his tracks.

“Good.” “Why do you call Me good?” Our dear Lord is asking, “Do you realize what you are saying?” You see, if we truly understand “good,” then we know it can apply to only One – the Lord God Himself! So Jesus informs the man that He has – even if unwittingly – just admitted that Jesus Christ is God!

Then He does get around to the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” But wait! It’s the wrong question! “What must I do?!” I don’t think so! And yet, listen to Jesus’ reply. It’s rather shocking! “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.” Do you mean to tell me that Jesus is saying we need to keep the commandments in order to get into heaven? After explaining in the Sermon on the Mount that they mean far more, and we break them constantly? We’re sunk!

Yet this rich young man seems not to be phased one bit. Yeah. Sure. I’ve done all that. And we shake our heads in disbelief. How can he say that? What nerve! But wait. Before you go condemning him, think how often you say to yourself: “I’ve been pretty good. I haven’t killed anybody. I try to keep God’s commandments. I hope I’ve been good enough.” Even in this month of celebrating our Reformation heritage, all too often we get caught up in the thought that we are trying to keep His Word. God says: “So what! That isn’t enough.” There is no such thing as a human who is “good enough” since the sin in the Garden.

And then comes the clincher: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Jesus is telling him that this good work will get him to heaven? What is going on here?! I thought the Bible does not teach salvation by works!

It doesn’t. And that is not what Jesus is saying. Some may try to compare this event to the Jailer at Philippi, and say that God’s Word is contradicting itself. But they are wrong.

Paul and Silas were in jail. The Lord sends an earthquake and releases the apostle and the others. The terrified jailer cries out: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” And he was baptized at once, he and his family. (Acts 16:30-31, 33b ESV.) Even then, the work of belief belongs to the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift. So he and his family simply received the salvation through Paul’s preaching and Holy Baptism!

Like the Jailer, you have been rescued and brought out of a dark prison – a prison of sin and death. Our loving Lord has delivered you and given you faith – belief in Jesus – and baptized you into His kingdom. You are saved!

Then why does Jesus tell the rich young man to keep the law? The bottom line is, the Jailer and the Rich Young Man are in two very different places. The Jailer is terrified and repentant. He has been face to face with God’s Law in the earthquake, knowing he is powerless and helpless. The Rich Young Man, however, has a problem. There is something standing in his way. He has another god: his wealth. He fears, loves, and trusts his riches above all things. And he is so set in his ways and secure in them that he does not even realize how smug and self-absorbed he has become.

We can be much the same way. We may not even have great riches, but when we let things preoccupy us, they become our gods. When people or possessions become our main focus, we end up serving ourselves, and then we begin to worship our very selves as our gods!

So why does Jesus lead him this way in this conversation? Why does Jesus tell this Rich Young Man to keep the Law and give everything away? Our Savior is telling him to cast away his other gods, that the Lord can cleanse and purge and place saving faith in him.

Jesus comes to you today. He urges you to cast off your idols, and avoid any trust in the false god of wealth. This opens the kingdom of heaven to you. Not because you have actively done anything. But the Holy Spirit then calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the true faith. He gifts you with faith in the true God, infinitely better than any wealth we can imagine.

These past couple years have also taught us about trusting in wealth. Even congregations can slip into trusting that their investments and offerings will provide for their needs, rather than recognizing it purely as gift from God. Sure we will give a passing acknowledgement that it is God’s money, but we crunch numbers and either worry or gloat over how we are doing. And it is no secret that St. John’s is hurting in terms of earthly finances. But the Good Teacher is telling us to avoid the fear, love, or trust in these riches and debts. Instead, we rejoice in the Gospel, celebrating His forgiveness and love, and giving as He enables us to help His ministry and mission here.

Will that giving earn heaven? Absolutely not! But what a joy and pleasure it is to respond in love and thanks to our Savior who rescues us.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him. The Good Teacher’s heart went out to him. He so desperately wanted the man to be brought to faith. And He does the same with you and me. He looks at us and loves us. He loves us far more than simply giving us stuff. He gives salvation! He gives eternal life! He gives Himself to bleed and die on the cross, making Himself truly poor that we might be rich – rich in faith and forgiveness; rich in eternal life with the Lord!

Dear friends in Christ, you are loved by the Lord. He has compassion on you and rescues you from all your false gods. He gathers you into His kingdom. Thanks be to God that He comes and gives you true riches today, from this pulpit to your ears and from this altar to your mouth! Jesus is entering you and filling you with the true and lasting wealth of life in Him! Amen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Preach Christ Crucified

St. John's, Chicago is blessed to have this beautiful crucifix. I haven't done any digging around, to find out when it was bought or given to the congregation, or by whom, but I love it!

Current practice has been to have it on the altar reredos during Lent. I'm sad to see it out so rarely, especially since the crucifix is such a strong part of our Lutheran heritage. The original Lutheran practice held that the bigger the crucifix, the better, since it boldly proclaimed to people God's love and mercy through Christ's redeeming sacrifice. (In some parts of Germany, it was said you could tell the Lutheran churches from the Roman Catholic ones by the crucifixes -- the Lutheran churches had larger crucifixes!)

Some time in the 20th century, though, a generation of Lutheran pastors was taught a misunderstanding that an empty cross was preferred. In all likelihood it was to look more like Protestant neighbors -- a theme that picked up steam after the World Wars, for some reason.

Now, more and more of our parishes are returning to their roots. (See St. Paul's Lutheran in Hamel, Illinois on Pastor Weedon's blog.) We are remembering the joy of seeing Jesus winning His victory on the cross and redeeming us. We are realizing how completely appropriate it is for an image of Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice for our forgiveness and salvation to be near or above the altar where He delivers that forgiveness and salvation.

How beautiful to behold the mercy of God in its purest form: Jesus giving up His life and shedding His blood for us. "We preach Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23 ESV.) There before your very eyes is the Lord God in the flesh, giving His very body and blood for you!

Thank you, Lord, for blessing St. John's with such a beautiful image to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Swine Flu Song

Jon Kohlmeier rocks! My friend from Higher Things posted this on Facebook, and it's a hoot! Enjoy!

Quote of the Day: "Catholicity" of Lutheranism

My friend, Pastor Wil Weedon, posted the following quote on his blog:

It is true that of all the church bodies which have left the papacy, it is precisely the Lutheran Church which is accused of retaining many papal abuses and of having been the least successful in cleansing itself. It is pointed out, for example, that in our church priestly clothing, church ornamentation, pictures, altar, crucifixes, candles, confession, the sign of the cross, and the like are still apparent. But, my friends, whoever regards these innocent things as vestiges of the papacy knows neither what the papacy is, nor what the Bible teaches. The very fact that the Lutheran Reformation was not aimed at indifferent adiaphora, but retained those things which were in harmony with God's Word, shows that it was not a disorderly revolution, but a Biblical reformation.

Rev. Dr. C. F. W. Walther
First Director (President) of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and the First President of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

First Comes Love...:A Homily on Mark 10:2-16

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" What a loaded question. I am reminded of a placard I once saw in a photo of a priest at a march for life. It said: “What is legal is not always moral.”

The Pharisees are trying to catch Jesus – to get Him to “slip up” and say something against the Scriptures. They know that the Scriptures included permission in the Old Testament for divorce, even though it is not part of God’s perfect plan. They also know that Jesus is teaching love and mercy and might accidentally contradict the Scriptures. No such luck for them.

He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away." Jesus goes on to explain that it is because of the hardness of fallen human hearts that God made this allowance. But He is quick to remind them of God’s grand design at creation: one man, one woman, for life.

Funny, preaching this passage in some countries—even in Canada, by insisting that marriage is only for one man and one woman, can be considered “hate speech.” But the Lord plainly lays out His design for marriage and family here, and He speaks the truth in love.

"But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

So where does that leave us? We live in a nation where for some time there has been a “success rate” for marriages hovering around 50% -- even in Christian homes. Statistically speaking, every single one of us either has had a divorce, or knows someone who has been through divorce. And what about those cases where the spouse has been unfaithful and there actually is a biblical permission for divorce?

The devil, the world, and our sinful selves are hard at work, trying to convince people that they have “fallen out of love,” or encouraging constant fighting that leads to shattering marriages. Some give in to violent urges. Others yell. Still others plot financial revenge.

Does this describe your relationship? Then God says to you: “Repent! And get help!” Or is this being done to you? Then God offers His love and compassion, picking up the pieces of your life and offering His healing.

Far too quickly, though, we are wont to believe the devil’s lies and slide down that slippery slope of fear, mistrust, and brokenness. If we stop and admit it, we often enjoy television shows and movies that present situations that encourage breaking marriages. So our minds and sub-consciences get filled with seduction, excitement, and the so-called “growing apart” that becomes acceptable in society. After failing to defend the Lord’s order of marriage and family for so long, we end up agreeing with immorality by virtue of our silence.

Dear friends in Christ, the perfect family that God designed in Eden is under attack. What hope can we have?

Our hope comes from a perfect marriage. No, not one that you could ever have as a couple. I mean the perfect marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:31-32.)

Yes! Our Lord Jesus is the perfect Bridegroom. And the Church is His Bride. At the cross, Jesus takes leave of His mother and is joined to His Bride. As He gives His Body up for her, He is acting out of His perfect, holy, self-sacrificing love. The Church receives that love in humble thanks and joy. At the cross, as He takes His bride, Jesus removes any spot or wrinkle or blemish. He cleanses her from any trespass or sin, and claims her as His own.

Now, even in the midst of our broken relationships and failed families, we have hope. Jesus has come and removes the pain and guilt. He hears our confession and absolves us for breaking our promises, for breaking others’ hearts, and for failing to be the saints we are called to be. Jesus tells you today that yes, even divorce can be repented of, and He renews us to continue in this life. The loving forgiveness of the Perfect Bridegroom restores our relationship with Him, and breathes new life into our relationships with one another.

The children’s playground chant says: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.”

A holy marriage is always open to God’s gift of life and procreation. Here again, our culture bombards us with ideas contrary to God’s Word. Television, films and printed media degrade the value of family and children. Emphasis is on the individual and his or her career. Much is made over friends and activities outside the home and away from spouse and children. In our culture and media, you only hear about large families in a context of “what a burden!” or “How environmentally irresponsible!” And even then, it seems that more than two children qualifies a family as “large” in the 21st century.

And here we are, hearing the Scriptures, where every mention of children is always in the context of blessing, and never as burden. We hear God tell Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. We hear God repeat that blessing after the Flood. King Solomon writes in Psalm 127, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” And today we hear Jesus treat children with great love and respect.

Society says: “Limit your families on purpose.” Jesus says: “Be fruitful and multiply.” The world says: “Don’t have too many children or we will use up all the resources.” Scripture says: “The Lord will provide.” The world would have the Church worry about statistics and how we are shrinking. Our Lord would encourage more of the Church growing the old fashioned way, by having more children. And t
oday we hear Jesus welcoming and blessing little children – a text which has been closely connected to Holy Baptism since ancient times.

So does this mean you are a terrible Christian if you don’t have children, or have only one? No. For some, God has not allowed our bodies or health to create more children. For others, serious stewardship concerns led them to refrain from a larger family. Still others may be serving God in other varied ways.

On the other hand, some limit their families with purely selfish motives. If it is “all about me,” then this is a sin to face and confess. Then it is akin to the sin of the disciples in today’s Gospel, thinking Jesus is too important to be bothered with children. But we know that our Lord reaches out to everyone, regardless of age. He wants the little children to come to Him.

As His Church, we bring the little children to Him. We bring them to Holy Baptism, where He gifts them with forgiveness and faith. We bring them to the Divine Service so they can hear Him and be nourished by Him – even before they understand what is going on. His Word is living and active, and works even before they are cognizant of its meaning. That means even while still in the womb! Like St. John the Baptizer, our babies hear His Word preached and are brought into God’s presence, where faith is given and strengthened.

First comes love – the eternal, almighty love of God from the foundation of the world, showered on His Bride, the Church.

Then comes marriage – Christ, united with His Bride as He suffers and dies on the cross. The Savior-Bridegroom now constantly gives Himself to His Bride as He speaks His constant “I love you” through His Word, and shares His sacred Body in the Supper.

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage – OK, so there is no carriage. But there is a tub! A large and wondrous font for the saving Baptism that gives new birth to the millions of children born to this union. Here the Lord is constantly growing His Church, as He bestows new life on the countless children who are brought to Baptism every year!

So here we are, the family of God. Christ and His Bride are united, and children are brought forth in the womb of the Baptismal Font. Thanks be to God, who calls us as His family! Amen.