Today, Pope Francis celebrated his 83rd birthday. According to Vatican News,
The Church and the world [are] celebrating together with him in an outpouring of affection.
Thousands of e-mails have been arriving, along with letters from children.
Millions of people have chosen social networks to communicate their thoughts and prayers beneath a picture of the Holy Father published on “Franciscus”, his official Instagram account.
Other messages have been arriving from world and religious leaders, including one from the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.
Here is a fun video created by Vatican News:
The occasion of his birthday reminded me of one of his early Wednesday audiences, where he gave the faithful a “homework” assignment–to find out the date of their baptism, which he described as their “second birthday.”
All of you know the day on which you were born and you celebrate it as your birthday, don’t you? We all celebrate our birthday. I ask you a question, that I have already asked several times, but I’ll ask it again: who among you remembers the date of your Baptism? Raise your hands: they are few (and I am not asking the Bishops so as not to embarrass them…). Let’s do something: today, when you go home, find out what day you were baptized, look for it, because this is your second birthday. The first birthday is the day you came into life and the second birthday is the one on which you came into the Church. Will you do this? This is your homework: find out the day on which you were born to the Church, and give thanks to the Lord, because at Baptism he has opened the door of his Church to us. At the same time, Baptism is tied to our faith in the remission of sins. The Sacrament of Penance or Confession is, in fact, like a “second baptism” that refers back always to the first to strengthen and renew it. In this sense, the day of our Baptism is the point of departure for this most beautiful journey, a journey towards God that lasts a lifetime, a journey of conversion that is continually sustained by the Sacrament of Penance. Think about this: when we go to confess our weaknesses, our sins, we go to ask the pardon of Jesus, but we also go to renew our Baptism through his forgiveness. And this is beautiful, it is like celebrating the day of Baptism in every Confession. Therefore, Confession is not a matter of sitting down in a torture chamber, rather it is a celebration. Confession is for the baptized! To keep clean the white garment of our Christian dignity!
We can ask ourselves: is Baptism, for me, a fact of the past, relegated to a date, that date which you are going to go look for today, or is it a living reality, that pertains to my present, to every moment? Do you feel strong, with the strength that Christ gave you by his death and his Resurrection? Or do you feel low, without strength? Baptism gives strength and it gives light. Do you feel enlightened, with that light that comes from Christ? Are you a man or woman of light? Or are you a dark person, without the light of Jesus? We need to take the grace of Baptism, which is a gift, and become a light for all people!
(Mine is September 30, in case you were wondering.)
Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He’s a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He’s active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.