On January 31st, 2020, the priest who baptized me died. Father Juan Romero Lopez was a Spanish missionary from Granada, Spain who spent his priesthood working in the southern outskirts of Lima, Peru. On April 24th 1982 my parents, godparents, friends and family, took me to the parish church of the small country town of Lurín and Padre Juan welcomed me into God’s family. The beautiful colonial church built in 1703 had been recently refurbished, and several years later was elevated to a cathedral.
I remember Padre Juan would come to my aunt’s house on Easter Sunday afternoon along with the other two Spanish missionary priests of the area. I remember he would turn red in anger whenever the town drunk sneakily made his way into the choir loft during Mass and began to clap, cheering the priest exclaiming for all to hear, “vamos Juan!” I remember when he visited my dad days before he died. I greeted him at the door, reminded him who I was, and told him I was a seminarian – he had not seen me in thirteen years. His face lit up as he said immediately in a thick Spanish accent, “but I baptized you!” I remember him standing at my side as I celebrated my first Mass in Peru after my priesthood ordination in the same church where he baptized me. With an experienced eye and making use of his index finger, he guided me through the prayers of the missal. Twenty-seven years later we met again at the Parish of San Pedro de Lurín, the church of my childhood, to give thanks to God for what began on the day of my baptism.
As parents give natural life to their children, through the sacrament of baptism, God the Father gives supernatural life to His children as He claims them as His own. The baptizing priest or deacon plays an essential role in the name of God as he obediently acts according to the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The priest or deacon is an active instrument of God’s grace, and the eternal relationship that is forged at baptism between God and the baptized remains somehow imprinted in the relationship between the baptized and the baptizer. How amazing will it be for those who baptize to meet again in heaven the people who belong to God’s everlasting family because of the celebration of a baptism that bound them together for eternity.
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