In the name of all in our Diocese and in union with our Holy Father Pope Francis, who, with great sensitivity and pastoral tenderness, personally conveyed his condolences, and by way of his Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, who sent written confirmation of those greetings, and indeed, since this moment in our lives is international in scope, crossing all boundaries, yet bound together by a deep sense of human compassion and heartfelt remorse, I wish to extend to you in the name of all people of good will our deepest sympathy, our continued prayer and our pledge to keep the witness of James’ life as a personal call to faith, courage and love.
When parents bring their child to the Church to be Baptized, they are asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church for your child?” Some will respond, “Baptism”; some: “To share God’s life”; some: “To have the gift of Faith”. The answers may differ slightly, but in each case, the parents always seem to look at the child as they make their response, as if to say – “I want God to love you as much as I do – always, always! No matter what, I want you to know how much God loves you, always, always, no matter what.”
That is the child’s introduction to the Sacrament of Baptism: the parents formally introducing their child to God who created this little life. It is a tender moment, a beautiful moment – a child’s innocence and the parents’ tender and loving pride.
Yet, as in all of life in this world, sin and evil and their effects are very real. And so, before the waters of baptism are poured, another set of questions is posed:
“Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?” - “I do!”
“Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?” - “I do!”
“Do you renounce Satan the author and prince of sin?” - “I do!”
These questions are not mere formularies, they probe the very heart, they ask us if we are willing to stand for something better, something beyond self-interest, beyond devious manipulation, beyond bitterness, beyond despair. These questions ask us if we have the courage to stand up bravely as that child of God over whom our parents looked proudly when they said, “I want this child to have the gift of Faith. I want this little life to share God’s life.”
Our Baptismal Promises call us to respond: “I do will it.” And surely, our Baptismal promises are renewed several times during the year, it is true, but as we gather here today we remember James Foley, whose adult life exemplified that passion for life as a child of God to which we are all called.
In a special way today, we are challenged to be mindful of the needs of others. We are challenged to be true to our Faith, especially when most challenged to doubt. We are challenged to see the world through a different lens and to hear the world’s voice as the voices of individuals – people – children, mothers, fathers, the elderly who were once strong and sleek but now rely on loving hearts to steady them. We are challenged to hear the cries a world away and those cries right in our own homes. We are challenged to be our best selves and, in a very personal way, we are challenged to renew our Baptismal promises daily – each day – daily renouncing sin and refusing to be mastered by evil; renewing our desire to live bravely and with passion the life of a true child of God.
To help us to remember how to do this in a practical way, we might well pray The prayer of Saint Francis:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
Seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
To this, I think we can say “Yes, I wish I could do that”. But it is not beyond our capability; it’s not impossible. Our Lord lived it. Our Most Blessed Mother lived it. Many Saints have lived it. Jim lived it!
Mr. & Mrs. Foley, I began my remarks by remembering the beginnings of the Baptismal rite, but now I want to remind you of what was said at its conclusion, for I think, today it is most apt. As you held your newly baptized son in your arms and were about to go forth with him into the world, Mrs. Foley, this blessing was prayed over you: “God the Son, the Virgin Mary’s child, has brought joy to all Christian mothers as they see the hope of eternal life shine on their child. May He bless the Mother of this child; she now thanks God for the gift of her son. May she be one with him in thanking God forever in Heaven in Christ Jesus Our Lord.”
And Mr. Foley, this was the blessing prayed over you on that very same occasion: “God is the Father of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He with his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of Faith. May they be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the Faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus Our Lord.” Rarely do we recall these words, but I bring them to mind for you and for all of us as they are most poignant, most prophetic and most precious, especially today.
The gift of family life, the depth and richness of Faith that a family is graced to hand on to its children and the gifts that each person can bring to the world, encourage us to live the new life of Grace with an eye toward the beauty of the Kingdom of God. This is what the heart seeks; this is what God wants for all His children.
As we turn now to Almighty God and offer the gift of His Son, let us receive the gift of His Grace and the promise of life everlasting. And may Almighty God grant peace to James and to all our fragile world.