The Ascension of Jesus
Fruit of the Mystery: Hope & Desire for Heaven
Not for a Party, Not for Appearances, but for Faith
“How are you?” my mom asked as we raced into the church. We were on time, but not by much. I knew I looked exhausted, but what could I do? Today was the big day, and everything needed to be perfect.
“I’m fine … just a long night with the baby,” I muttered, silently wishing that I didn’t look as frazzled outside as I felt inside.
Today was Baptism Day. It was cold for May, so we had bundled up the baby with a jacket that made him like a tiny businessman. He’ll be fine, I’d told myself as I put on the only outfit I owned that fit my new-mom figure. My hair wouldn’t lay right, my cardigan didn’t quite cover all that it should, and I knew that someone would inevitably comment on the deep bags under my eyes. I haphazardly slabbed on some makeup and raced out the door.
True to form, my husband and I had laid out an elaborate schedule for the baptism. First, we’d run over to the venue to be sure it was ready. Then, we’d grab balloons from the store, pack up the ice chest with last night’s prepped food, and head to the church. Once the baptism was over, we’d give hugs and drive over to the venue before anyone else could get there. If we could just set up the party decorations before anyone else arrived, everything would be OK.
But, of course, plans go awry. Especially on days like this.
It rained the night before, so the seating at the park was wet. Grabbing towels from the trunk, my husband wiped them down as best as he could, trying not to ruin his suit. Looking back, I’m sure we looked ridiculous, all dressed up and wiping off park benches with old beach towels. But, in my six-week postpartum brain, it was crucial to a successful day.
Then, the problems really started rolling: The balloons weren’t ready when we arrived to pick them up, which made us late. Then, the baby was hungry. Then, a diaper change. Then, traffic on the way to the church. Finally, it was time for the baptism.
We stood outside. The water from the sky sprinkled on us as a beautiful foreshadowing of the water flowing in the font we’d pass in a moment. Our family and friends surrounded us, glowing with pride as this newborn child was brought into the faith. Other families gathered with their own precious ones, waiting for the words of our pastor to call us together. It was a beautiful moment.
Except for me.
I was the mom holding a screaming, writhing child who wouldn’t have taken his pacifier if I’d begged him. (I know, because I was begging him.) Sweat formed on my barely presentable face, and I could feel my hormonal tears starting up.
“Shh … no, no, no … please don’t do this now,” I whispered to my son. People were watching us, and my heart beat faster as I tried to decide how I could step away from our own baptism ceremony.
Then, a microphoned voice called out, “What name do you give your child?”
“What do you ask of God’s Church for Nicholas?”
Before I knew it, we were snapping photos and racing on to the party.
I wish that I could say that this moment stood out to me. I wish I could say that my perfectionism and stress faded away as I spoke those first words aloud. I wish I could say that I sighed with relief at the smell of the chrism and the calming sounds of the baptismal water.
But, I can’t. I stressed over how I would be able to nurse the baby in time for the party. I fretted over his miniature bowtie and worried that his pacifier wasn’t clean enough. I let the day overshadow the sacrament.
Thinking back, I know that I missed the gift of God’s grace in the sacrament: the water washing over his forehead, the “Alleluia” sung so joyfully from the congregation, his baptismal candle lit with a flame that would power his faith for a lifetime.
This day was a chance for me to see a glimpse of the Holy Spirit at work, and I had been stuck in my own thoughts.
I lay my head down that night realizing that although the party had gone well and we had all survived the stress of the day, I had missed the point. My husband and I wanted our son to be baptized — not for a party, not for appearances, but for his faith. In all my worry, I had forgotten the most important part: We wanted our child to be wrapped in God’s grace as soon as possible, because we desired Heaven for him.
How many times were the apostles too concerned with the practical, the day-to-day worries, the way that things appeared to society? How often did they miss what Jesus was trying to say or do because they weren’t present in the moment?
Beautiful moments, like the Sacraments, should pull us out of ourselves and remind us of Heaven. They should point us in the direction of our calling as Christians. They should fill us with wonder and send us forth to live the life we’re called to live, as souls on the way to Heaven.
In the same way that the apostles were stuck staring at the sky during the Ascension or wondering about the return of an earthly kingdom, I had been stuck worrying about the things in my own head instead of the powerful sign that God had performed right in front of me. As the apostles returned to Jerusalem to continue Jesus’s ministry, guided by the Holy Spirit, so I need to continue the work of motherhood each day, guided by God’s word and focused on his purpose for us.
Our children’s baptism candles sit on our family’s prayer table. As I walk by them each day, I’m reminded of that day and how easy it is to lose focus on Jesus and his mission for me. My to-do lists and scheduling concerns don’t matter much when I consider that, more than anything, I want to help my husband and children reach heaven. Seeing their candles helps me to walk this road of motherhood every day, helping me to guide us all on the way to everlasting life.
About Jeanette: Jeanette Lopez is a wife, mom, and elementary school teacher in Southern California. She believes in God’s goodness, the beauty of childlike wonder, and the incredible power of a good cup of coffee. You can find her chasing her three littles at the park or doing yet another load of laundry. She writes on occasion at Keep Our Hearts Grateful or on Instagram at @keepourheartsgrateful.