Tag Archives: Baptism

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

2 Peter 1:2-7, Psalm 91, Mark 12:1-12

The wicked tenants in this Gospel passage do not just represent Israel’s leaders. Our Lord too, has left us each a ‘vineyard’ of blessings, gifts, talents and charisms.

How have we been using these gifts God has loaned to us? Have we been prideful of our abilities or do we praise and thank God everyday for them? Pope Benedict tells us:

“We should not become elated over our good deeds… it is the Lord’s power, not our own, that brings about the good in them.”

Going a step further, through Baptism, every Christian is expected to participate in Christ’s ministry as Priest, Prophet and King.

As Prophets, we are expected to share the Truth of the Gospel boldly and prudently.

As Priests, we are expected to be faithful followers of Jesus. This refers to our interiority and inner disposition. If we begin to think of ourselves acting in a priestly fashion everyday of our lives, we would undoubtedly carry out the work of Jesus — bringing justice and love into our world.

As Kings (or Queens), we are in charge of ourselves. Intellect and free will are powers bestowed upon our rational souls. This gives us dominion over our choices and bodies. We have a moral obligation to look after our temples and keep our passions under reason.

The Psalmist today gives us the simplest solution on how we can fulfill our three roles to its maximum potential: “In you, my God, I place my trust.” (Ps 91:2).

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Originally posted on Instagram.
Image: PD-US

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Psalm 33, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20

CCC 234: “The Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the MYSTERY OF GOD in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith.”

The Trinity, Andrei Rublev (1425)

Just let that sink in – the Holy Trinity is the MYSTERY OF GOD Himself.

In Matthew’s Gospel, he beautifully opens up with the Emmanuel Prophecy when the Angel told Mary that her son would be called Emmanuel (God is with us). At the end of the Gospel, Jesus fulfills this by literally telling us that He (God) WILL be with us, forever till the end of time! Many people miss this, but Matthew’s Gospel concludes on Jesus’s Divinity.

It is in this context that Jesus reveals His Triune Divinic nature when He commands all His followers to Baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. For Catholics, we do this every day when we make the sign of the cross. We must not forget this Great Commission whenever we call upon the Holy Trinity.

I’d like to close with a fun fact: the word ‘Trinity’ is NOT found in the Bible. Instead, the Doctrine of the Trinity was written and declared infallibly by Pope Dionysius:

“The most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it the Trinity, as it were, three powers and three distinct substances subsisting in one being… [Some heretics] proclaim that there are in some way three gods, when they divide the sacred unity into three substances foreign to each other and completely separate.” (A.D. 262)

Today, (thank God for this) all Christians accept this Sacred Tradition, which was hard fought for. The Doctrine of the Trinity is a prime example of why we need to recognize the Church as an infallible interpreter and why we can’t just rely on the Bible alone. After all, Jesus did leave us a Church, not a book!

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Originally posted on Instagram.

Soul-Changing Sacraments

Recently, I was able to attend the ordination of my brother-in-law to the priesthood, and there, before my eyes, his soul was eternally changed, indelibly marked. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon before—I’ve attended many baptisms and confirmations and Easter Vigils, and I’ve even been to another ordination. I’ve also met many persons who’ve been indelibly marked, as all who are baptized and confirmed are, and I have the immense blessing of knowing many priests. And I am among the indelibly marked! Yet we all look physically, outwardly the same as we did previously. Inwardly, though, we are changed, like the man born blind (cf. John 9: 6-9). Much like the form of bread and wine conceal the greater truth of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, so our bodies conceal the greater reality of our changed, marked, and claimed souls through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and, for some, Holy Orders.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, in paragraph 1121, that these three sacraments, in addition to conferring grace, also confer “a sacramental character or ‘seal’ by which the Christian shares in Christ’s priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible; it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church.” The indelible mark of these three sacraments is a positive orientation towards God and openness to His grace, that we might love Him, serve Him, and be more like Him. I’ve been baptized and confirmed, and in those sacraments, not only have I been claimed for Christ by this indelible mark—this sacramental grace from the Spirit—but I have also been given an avenue, a calling, a vocation to be more like Christ. These sacraments call me to be Christ in this world, according to my state in life.

What an incredible thing! To be so changed inwardly that it cannot be undone, no matter what. We truly are the Church, the baptized and confirmed, that we have been so changed that not even the gates of hell can change us back—we are eternally for Christ, then, by virtue of these sacraments, and that is a glorious comfort. Surely we can still choose against God, choose sin and evil and Satan, but that cannot undo or revert our souls back from this indelible mark; we are changed forever. It reminds me a lot of something C.S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare….There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

Fr. Jason blessing Archbishop—photo courtesy of William Williams

At my brother-in-law’s ordination, I encountered a cathedral packed with everlasting splendors, hundreds of people invested in the seven men who were giving their lives over in service to Christ and His Church, hundreds of unordinary people witnessing the eternal changing of these seven men’s souls. It is a glorious feeling to not only witness the conferring of this greatest sacrament of service but to also be among hundreds of other eternal, splendid souls who are doing the same. Surely, this is what heaven is like: a multitude of changed souls, oriented eternally toward the Triune God, worshipping, praising, and participating in Him together. This is exactly what the ordination felt like. Truly, if you’ve never been to an ordination or an Easter Vigil, make it a priority.

It is a wondrous world we live in and a wondrous God we serve and love. He is a wondrous God Who loves us so much to create us in the first place, and even more so to give us the means by which to come to Him even more fully and easily through the sacraments. Carrie Underwood has a song called “Something in the Water,” in which she sings about how baptism changed her, how the Lord has been even more at work in her life since, and how she can depend on Him even more than she could before. She’s talking about the first and most available indelible mark we can receive, this positive orientation toward grace and God. How generous is our God to give us, as Catholics, two more ways to be indelibly marked, two more ways to be even more closely configured to Him and more deeply opened up to the power of the Holy Spirit! We are the few, the proud, the eternally changed, the indelibly marked—let our lives be shining examples of this in the world, of Him in the world. People can’t tell just by looking at us that we’re any different than they are, but our words, deeds, and joy set us apart; they open up the changed nature of our souls to share with others. This is the call of baptism, of confirmation, and of the priesthood: to be lights of Christ to others as we are more closely configured to and united with Him.

Running in Circles: The Luminous Mysteries

In keeping with my recent posts about the fruits of the mysteries of the rosary in our daily lives, today I want to tackle the Luminous Mysteries and their fruits.

The first Luminous mystery is the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan, the fruit of which is “Openness to the Holy Spirit.” At first this seems pretty obvious; when we are baptized we are brought into the family of God, children of His by adoption, we become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. However, I think this mystery goes beyond simply meditating on our own baptism (which is a good and worthwhile thing to do). If we consider the number of times we renew out baptismal promises each week, every time we enter and exit the Church for example, we suddenly become aware of the number of opportunities we have to crack the door of our soul open just a bit more to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Even more than just renewing our baptismal promises, think of all the times the Lord desires to shower us with His grace – “baptize us in the Holy Spirit,” as it were. Our Lady of Guadalupe once said that the fingers in the painting of her that do not have rays coming out of them signify all of the graces that are available to us that no one asks for. Perhaps if we come to love our baptism and the promises that come with it, we will develop a new openness to the Holy Spirit, thus allowing ourselves to be spiritually “baptized” in His abundant graces each day!

Indeed, opening our souls to the Holy Spirit then allows us to turn for even greater help to those in Heaven. Which, coincidentally, is the second mystery and fruit – the Wedding Feast at Cana and the fruit “To Jesus through Mary.” When we open ourselves to the workings of the Holy Spirit, we become more malleable to the ways the Lord longs to bring us to Him. For those who are cautious about getting to know Mary, opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit may be the first step in trusting her to get us to her son. After all, she didn’t receive her son until she opened herself (in every possible way, mind you!) to the Holy Spirit. Maybe she knows a thing or two about the workings of Our Lord in The Spirit and the two of them, spirit and Mother of God, can work together to bring about wonders in our soul!

Which brings us to the third mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom and its fruit: “Trust in God.” Only when we become a true instrument of the Lord through His Spirit can we begin to evangelize the world. Yet, evangelization only works if we place all of our trust in Him: that He is the one evangelizing, not us, that His work will be done if we remain humble. Yet we need the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother to help us reach those who have yet to be reached. Who better to ask for help than the Spirit, who gave the apostles tongues to evangelize, and Mary, who brought Jesus to the world for the first time?

In the fourth mystery, we see how the act of opening ourselves to the graces of the spirit, asking Mary for guidance, and bringing the gospel to others begins to have a profound effect on us. For, just as the mystery reflects on the Transfiguration we too are transfigured into a true reflection of Christ in the world. As we grow in this holiness and radiate the Lord to others, we find that our “Desire for God and Holiness” deepens.

Finally, our spiritual life culminates in the fifth mystery: the Institution of the Eucharist and the fruit of “Eucharistic Adoration.” As the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church, so too is it the source and summit of our life as Christians. As our desire for holiness grows in response to the workings of the Holy Spirit within us, we are necessarily drawn to the One who can make us Holy: Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In adoring Him, we are given the Holy Spirit and a new openness to His workings in our life, and the whole circle begins again.

Indeed, the spiritual life, it seems, is not linear, but rather a series of overlapping circles that build on one another to make a beautiful pathway to holiness. As we again grow in openness to the Holy Spirit, our desire for Mary’s intercession awakens and we are transformed by our desire for holiness, which again brings us to the Eucharist.

People like to say that running in circles in pointless. Well, maybe, it’s not as pointless as it seems!

Anointing His Feet

If you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you.  Jesus could have said this to the scribes and Pharisees accusing the woman caught in adultery.  Take the plank out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s.  This quip would work for them as well.  But instead he writes in the sand with his finger.  The Church fathers say he is writing each of their sins.  Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.  The only one who could condemn her is the perfect Man, Jesus, but he forgives her.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  But this forgiveness is purchased at the precious price of his blood.  In respect for this sacrifice, the woman goes and sins no more.

In the garden Satan acts both as tempter and accuser.  He seduces Adam and Eve into sin and then hurls their deeds back at them in the trial scene.  But the accuser of our brethren has been brought down.  Christ the Judge acts as pardoner.  Saint Ambrose prayed, “I would fear to draw near to you as my judge, but I seek you out as my Savior.”  We would perish in the fire of God’s justice, but he infuses us with grace.  The law brings death, but the spirit gives life.  We are not under the law but under grace.  But unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees you will by no means enter eternal life.  If you hate your brother, you have murdered him in your heart.  Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

Mankind is under the universal call to holiness, purgatory, sanctification.  At his baptism the Christian is told, “You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ.  See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity.  With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”  The baptismal robe is the wedding garment.  Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Such are the consequences of sullying the wedding garment.  This imperative to become holy drives home the importance of confession:  of patience, penance, prayer.

The woman caught in adultery is often identified with Mary Magdalene.  She is the only one called “The Penitent” in the Church’s liturgy.  Others receive the titles of “Apostle,” “Virgin,” “Confessor,” “Martyr,” “Bishop,” or “Doctor.”  Mary Magdalene is the patroness of the Dominicans, the Order of Preachers, because she is the first to see Jesus after His Resurrection and to proclaim the good news.  Tradition says she even tried to convert the emperor.  She thought if she could only go to him, she could tell him what she saw.  He mocked the Christians for worshiping a dead man.  He called their religion as ridiculous as the egg sitting in front of Mary at the table turning red before his eyes.  The egg turned red, and Mary held it up.  From this tradition we derive Easter eggs.

Mary Magdalene is depicted in iconography not only with a red egg but also with an alabaster jar.  Pope Saint Gregory the Great remarks that she puts the very things she used for prostitution to the service of Christ.  The eyes she used to lure men become a fountain of tears.  The hair she used for seduction becomes a rag for His feet.  The lips she used to kiss her lovers now shower His holy feet with love.  The oil she used to anoint her customers now prepares Him for His burial.  She puts her gifts to the service of the body of Christ.  Rather than using her body as a weapon for the enemy, Satan, she gives beauty back to God, beauty’s Self and beauty’s Giver.

That You May be One as I and the Father are One

Zechariah writes of a vision in which he saw a man going to measure Jerusalem, her breadth and her length.  Another angel came to tell him that Jerusalem would remain unwalled because of the great number of men and cattle that would be in her.  The Lord said through the angel, “I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”  After the announcement of this indwelling, Zechariah bids Jerusalem, “Sing, rejoice, / Daughter of Zion; / For I am coming / To dwell in the middle of you. / It is the Lord who speaks. / Many nations will join the Lord, / On that day; / They will become his people” (2:5-15).

The day of judgment becomes the day of glory when God comes near to his people to tent with them.  Deus fit homo, ut homo fiat DeusGod became man so that man might become God.  Mary pictures best the doctrine of theosis or divinization.  As Christ clothed in blue (heaven) puts on red (earth), Mary clothed in red (human) puts on blue (divine).  Like the burning bush she blazes but is not consumed.  Redemption realizes the purpose of the imago Dei.  God conforms us not only to his image but also to his likeness.  Through imitation of Christ we join or joys to his, our sorrows to his, our work to his, our prayers to his.

St. Peter writes that God’s divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, that through glory and virtue we may be partakers of the divine nature (2nd Epistle 1:3-4).  The redeemed, the elect, the Church Militant shine with the light of regeneration, and their purity testifies to the world of their baptism.  Our holiness should attract others to the fold.  We drink from the overflowing cup of Trinity’s love.  Why would we ever stop drinking?  We shall never be filled in this life or the next because of God’s infinity.  Only thus do our hearts come to rest in the source of all being, through drinking from the fountain of life.

The calendar pairs the reading from Zechariah with this statement of Jesus in Luke, “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men” (9:44).  The folly of God, his handing himself over to evil men, his granting them free will is the greatest source of joy for mankind.  St. Bonaventure said that free will is the second most powerful thing in the universe after God himself.  We have this terrible power within us, to choose heaven or hell.  If all our life we have said Fiat voluntas tua, Thy will be done, when we approach judgment day, we will hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”  If all our lives we have prayed, “My will be done,” we will receive our heart’s desire at judgment day.  “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened to you” applies not only to the saved but to the damned as well.  We should be careful to cultivate our desire for heaven.  God allows people to make their own hell.  If the things of this world satisfy us, we can have them for all eternity, but we will experience misery.  If this world leaves us longing, we shall receive a reward.  He will give us the desires of our heart.

Free will gives man the power to lock himself in hell or to follow the example of Mary and to say Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, Let it be to me according to your word.  W. H. Auden writes of this terrible gift which God gave man, “He told us we were free to choose / But, children as we were, we thought— / ‘Paternal Love will only use / Force in the last resort / On those too bumptious to repent.’ / Accustomed to religious dread, / It never crossed our minds He meant / Exactly what He said” (Friday’s Child).  The terror of free will lies not only in its power to rebel but in its power to submit.  Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will save it.

To what is God calling you?

Hendrick ter Brugghen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Discerning God’s will in our lives can be a difficult and confusing endeavor most of the  time. I can still remember hearing the many epic tales about the heroic Saints in our Church’s life and thinking, “If I really love God, wouldn’t I do the same? Wouldn’t I give up everything, move to a different country, and start a new life devoted only to God?” This is a question that has stayed with me for many, many years, and I am sure that many of us can identify with it. What, then, are we to do?

In the spirit of honesty and transparency, I must first say that this article is not going to reveal God’s particular direction for your life to you. If only! What I do hope to share with you is a way of understanding God’s will that is more comprehensive, graspable, and, hopefully, sanctifying. Here are three key realities that we must all keep in mind when discerning God’s call in our lives.

Our fundamental call begins in baptism.

More important than one’s call to religious life, the priesthood, or holy matrimony is the call to holiness that is specific to and rooted in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is our baptismal call to the “fullness of the Christian life” (as stated by Lumen Gentium #40 of the Second Vatican Council). It is the reality that absorbs, uplifts, and transforms our entire self. Consequently, there is no aspect or part of our life — whether it be chosen or thrusted upon us, a strength or weakness, good or bad, joyful or sad, painful or pleasant — that can fall outside our call to live completely in Jesus Christ.

Through our baptism, we are plunged into the waters of purification and death, and we rise into the newness of a life in Christ. From then on there is nothing “ordinary” about life. Since we have the privilege and honor to be made anew in the Spirit of Christ, every facet of our life is God-touched and bears the weight of eternal significance. With this newness of life, St. Thérèse of Lisieux was able to “eternalize” even the smallest and most commonplace of actions — “I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”

God’s will is for us to love others.

This brings us to the second half of our enlightening excerpt from Lumen Gentium — We have all received, through our baptism, a call to the “fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (#40). This “perfection of charity” does not, however, refer to giving the perfect donation to our parish and the poor in our communities. Instead, it is referring principally to the type of love that gives without expecting any recompense.

When questioned which of the commandments is the greatest, Jesus responded with the simplest, yet most difficult, commands of all — love of God and neighbor (cf. Matt 22:37-38). If only Jesus had responded with any of the other 613 commandments, then perhaps we could all breathe a sigh of relief! The call to love is a lofty call, as anyone who has ever tried to love someone deeply knows. The vocation (call) to charity, however, does simplify our ability to understand God’s will in our lives. Therefore, more fundamental and important than discerning and discovering a call to a state in life (priesthood, religious life, marriage) is the call to love (cf. 1 Cor 13).

God encounters us in the present moment.

God’s will for us is not some lofty, abstract path that is either unattainable or forever missed if we commit one misstep along the pilgrimage of life. God, in his utter transcendence and immanence, is present to us at every moment of our lives. This brings us back to the Little Way of St. Thérèse. If St. Thérèse could participate in the salvation of others by picking up a pen in love, then is it far stretch to think that we can do the same by changing diapers, filing tax returns, shuttling children to and from school, cleaning the dishes, or withholding a sarcastic retort in love?

When love is present, God is present. Love infuses all times and places with the grace and presence of God, revealing to us the sacramentality of the present moment. While God has encountered us in the past and certainly will encounter us in the future, He, most importantly, encounters us in the present. Before we can truly discern a calling from God to plant ourselves in a foreign land as a missionary or to simply stay where we are filing tax returns, completing homework, changing diapers and picking up pins, then we must first acknowledge and respond to our baptismal call to the fullness of the Christian life by the simple and mundane path of everyday life and love.

Francesco Albani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Baptism: God’s Humility and Man’s Dignity

This past Sunday, we celebrated the Feast of our Lord’s Baptism. Meditating on the Gospel reading gives a glimpse into the profound reality of this great sacrament. The most high God went to the Jordan River to be baptized by His servant John the Baptist. The Creator lowered Himself before His creature, allowing John to cleanse Him with the life-giving water of a river in Galilee.

If you recall this scene, John himself says that it is Jesus who should baptize him. Yet, Jesus asks for his baptism. He does this because He wants to identify with us. Although He was God, He started His public life by humbling Himself to our sinful nature.

When I pray the Lauds, one of the most striking passages is the Psalm Prayer, “Father, He who knew no sin was made sin for us, to save us and restore us to your friendship.” Jesus is not only compassionate for our sinful nature. Jesus, the most pure, good and holy God, chose to “become” sin for our sake. He “became” sin so that poor sinful humanity could be freed from the slavery to sin. He took on the full weight of all the sins of mankind from Adam and Eve till the end of time.

Thus in Philippians 2, “Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

And it is this death on the cross and the resurrection from the dead which grants the divine life we receive in baptism. We all know that Baptism makes us the sons and daughters of God. Yet the Son of God had to become man, so that man could become like God.

God’s love is a creative love, ever fruitful. The Paschal Mystery was the definitive manifestation of God’s love. Through the Paschal Mystery Christ merited sanctifying grace for man. It is in our Baptism that we first receive this sanctifying grace. This sanctifying grace is a participation in the life of God Himself. Sanctifying grace is God living His life in us. Hence, Christ’s Baptism manifests Jesus taking part in our life. Our Baptism is when we take part in the divine life of God. What a sublime dignity!

This is why Baptism is such a monumental sacrament. It is in Baptism that God’s life is born in us. We are not only His children by name. We are His children because of the divinity in our souls. Knowing this, let us try to give more importance to our Baptism. Instead of merely celebrating our birthdays, why don’t we also celebrate our Baptismal anniversary? After all in the scheme of eternal life, this is our true birthday.

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

This coming Sunday is the Baptism of Jesus, which one of the most confusing topics for Christians. We have Jesus, the Man-God, a person of the Trinity, who sought baptism. It confuses people today and confused John the Baptist as well.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. (Matthew 3:13-15)

The main question on many minds is: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

I have heard a number of explanations for this as a former Protestant. Some say that it was to set an example. Others insist he needed the Holy Spirit to descend upon Him. What’s the right answer?

First, what is baptism?

Let’s take a reading from the Catechism:

Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit …, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission… Catechism of the Catholic Church 1215

One should naturally ask themselves: What does that have to do with Jesus? He had no sin, is the Christ, and the Church was not founded yet.

Second, let’s distinguish baptisms.

There are two baptisms we can observe in the Bible. The first of which is of John the Baptist in the Jordan. The purpose of this baptism was repentance, as the Gospel writers provide, “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and “John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3, Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:4, respectively).

The second is the Baptism of the Spirit, which is what the Church performs. This sacrament was given as a ministry of the Church (Matthew 28:19-20) for the purposes outlined above. More importantly, baptism is now a sign of Christ’s death as He mentions:

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mark 10:38)
and
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50)

Finally, the purpose.

Now that we understand baptism better, we can understand its purpose in Jesus’ ministry better. By being baptized, Jesus now numbers himself among sinners, wading in the water, while anticipating his death. And yet, he insists in this means of bringing forth his public life. By doing this, Jesus is not simply being an example but is accepting and anticipating the cross.

The Catechism puts it this way:

The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God’s suffering Servant. … he is already “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Already he is anticipating the “baptism” of his bloody death. Already he is coming to “fulfill all righteousness”,… Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed – and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation. Catechism of the Catholic Church 536

The purpose of Jesus’ baptism was a prelude to the cross, his full acceptance of it, and his brave anticipation of suffering for us that we might enter into the same baptism.

Series on the Sacraments Part 1 – Baptism

A few days ago, I placed a poll on the side of my blog asking what series of articles to do first. The winner was “The Sacraments,” and in second was “Devotions to Our Lord,” and “Marian Apparitions” coming in as a tie. Therefore I will write an article on each sacrament each Thursday for my series. I hope you will stay tuned!

Baptism:

baptism of the lord

The most essential sacrament of the seven is baptism. The reason for this is that without it we cannot receive any of the other sacraments, nor enter the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” (John 3:6) Without baptism, there is no hope to enter heaven. Without baptism, the soul is stained with original sin and cannot receive sanctifying grace. Without baptism, the soul cannot be saved.

Through Baptism, the soul is purified from original sin passed down from Adam and Eve, and is made completely pure. Once someone is baptised, he enters into the state of grace which can only be lost through mortal sin. Through his state, he can enter into eternal happiness with God forever! Why delay or reject that? Maybe we have a choice not to baptise our child, but we certainly don’t have the right.

“But maybe it should be up to the person to be baptised or not… we don’t want to decide for them to be Catholic.” This is often heard when it comes to Baptism, and to be honest, it isn’t true at all. There is just one true religion to believe, one chance to get to heaven, and one crucial moment that will determine whether that persons gets there, baptism. It isn’t a choice of if he is going to be baptised and what he is going to believe. At the end of the day the choice is either heaven or hell, where do you want your child to go? It’s a parent’s obligation to love their children, and in loving them, wanting them to go to heaven. The only way to get them there is taking them to a priest to be baptised and starting their journey to the eternal kingdom.

Not only this, but the risks for not baptizing a baby are quite serious. A child cannot sin before the age of reason and does not deserve the punishments of hell. However, without baptism there is no grace and if the child dies goes to a place called Limbo. It is a place of natural happiness, but not supernatural happiness with God. They cannot enter heaven because they don’t have that state of grace, so why take the risk of them going to that place? “Let the little children come to me!” Our Lord said this for a reason. He thinks of each of us individually, when He said this He was thinking of you and your child.

Baptism is the entrance to the narrow path of salvation! There isn’t anything more beautiful than a pure soul ready to enter heaven, to see the everlastingly beautiful face of God, to be infinitely happy! Therefore treasure and appreciate this sacrament, it’s one of the greatest gifts God has given us! Thank you dear Lord!

Baptism and Presidential Leadership

Election-season whoppers are nothing new to politics, Presidential or otherwise. The number of exaggerations, empty-promises, false claims, and flat-out lies which make their way into the debates or onto the campaign trail may be staggering, but it is hardly surprising to us anymore, as we are by now quite used to these myths and misstatements. In a year in which the so-called Catholic vote [1] once again looks to figure prominently—and during an election which will have some important ramifications for the freedoms of Catholics in America—it is no more surprising that some of the fabrications might be aimed specifically at Catholics. It is perhaps not even surprising that the fabrications in question are misapplications of Catholic faith and theology.

It”s a serious question, but the current administration treats those they disagree with with laughing condescension and disdain.

Similar fabrications were, after all, aimed at Catholics during the last election cycle. This was the election during which Vice-President Joe Biden and Congressman Nancy Pelosi (incorrectly) invoked Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine (respectively) to support their records as pro-abortion Catholics, falsely suggesting thereby that there is some doubt as to whether a faithful Catholic can support abortion [2]. This election cycle turns from a muddying of clearly established Catholic moral teaching to an attempt at hijacking Catholic sacramental theology by the Obama Campaign, or more specifically by “Catholics for Obama.”

The people who experienced this are supposed to be convinced by it when it targets Mormons?

In their reported calls (allegedly targeted at young Catholics, no less), they open by asking how we can support a Mormon candidate—Mitt Romney—for president. Points for irony that religious bigotry should be used to woo people of a religion which has seen its share of bigotry directed against it. The rest of their script contains an admixture of fear-mongering, false claims, and even blatant lies [3], but the thing begins by throwing some confusing onto one of the sacraments.

There are, after all, two possible interpretations of the claim that Mitt Romney is not trustworthy because he is a Mormon, given the context that these claims are meant to convince Catholics [4]. The first possibility is that we shouldn”t trust him, because he belongs to a heretical sect, that is, because his religious beliefs are so obvious wrong in the light of Catholic faith, that in a sense they are even hostilely at-odds with Catholicism.

It is entirely possible that the people running the “Catholics for Obama” campaign are so ignorant of Catholicism [5] that they don”t see the incongruity of their claim. After all, President Obama is a Protestant, which is also heretical by Catholic standards. Now, it is certainly true that most Protestants are less (even far less) heretical than Mormons, or that they come closer to the fulness of the Catholic Faith. They do, after all, share with us a belief in such points of Traditional teaching as the doctrine of the Trinity or the divine inspiration of the Bible [6] or the closure of public revelation after the death of the last apostle. On the other hand, many Protestants, like Mormons, subscribe to such falsehoods as the myth that a great apostasy occurred after the last apostle died, or that Catholic baptisms are invalid, or that the Catholic Church is a corrupt organization and a false Church of apostates. Some Protestants (and others) of anti-Catholic persuasion have held elected office in the past without the Church”s suffering adverse effects [7].

The point still remains that if we can”t trust a practicing Mormon like Romney, because his religious beliefs are wrong, then we can”t trust a non-practicing Protestant like Obama for the same reason. Conversely, if it is okay to trust a Protestant as President despite a difference of religious beliefs, then it should be okay to trust a Mormon despite the same. Indeed, since it is largely the moral and not the theological doctrines which inform the likely policies of a President, we should be asking which candidate”s morals are more closely in line with the Church”s [8]. Although as the members of “Catholics for Choice” well know, sometimes a person”s morality is not actually informed in the least by his religion.

This leaves us with the second possible interpretation of the question, which is that it is not the beliefs of the President which matter, but rather the validity of his baptism. The implication is that somehow a person”s baptism will make him a better President (or other office holder); and similarly, that his lack of a valid baptism will make him a worse President and cause him to be less trustworthy as an office-holder. It is an interesting litmus test for electing officials [9], but rather bad theology. Actually, the effects of Baptism are spelled out quite clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

By Baptism, all sins are forgiven, original sin and all person sins, as well as punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remain that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam”s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death and such frailties inherent in life as weakness of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, “the tinder for sin” (fomes peccati)… [CCC 1263-1264; my emphases in bold]

Other effects and graces include adoption as children of God, incorporation into the Body of Christ (CCC 1265), and the granting of graces necessary for salvation (CCC 1266). They specifically do not include a strengthening of a person”s character (CCC 1264) or a removal of the temporal consequences of sin: in other words, baptism in and of itself does not make a person more “trustworthy” in public or private life, nor does it grant the grace to be a better president, nor remove the weaknesses imposed on our nature by sin. Furthermore, the specific effects of Original Sin on our nature—proclivity to sin, a darkened intellect, a weakened will—remain with us after baptism as before.

“Catholic for Obama” (among others) would have us believe that the fact that Mitt Romney is not validly baptized means that he will be a worse President. This is a claim which is not actually supported by the Catholic Faith, since neither the explicit nor the implicit effects of baptism pertain to the virtues [10] most needed by elected official, nor does it take away the darkening of our intellects and the weakening of our wills. Neither is this claim actually supported by history, as we have had any number of decent or good presidents whose valid baptisms might be cast into doubt, whether deists like Jefferson or Unitarians like Adams and Taft, nor Jehovah”s Witnesses like Eisenhower (who was, however, baptized Presbyterian after being elected to office).

Actually, to claim that baptism makes for a better president is to equate it more with magic than with grace, an equation which is obviously to be rejected by thoughtful Catholics (or indeed, Christians in general). None of this proves that a Catholic should vote for Romney, or even that there is no involved with so doing [10], or that there are no problems with Romney”s proposed policies or personal life. That a faithful Catholic cannot in good conscience vote for Obama does not obligate him to vote for Romney, nor for that matter does not trusting Romney mean he has an excuse to vote for Obama. What it does mean, however, is that Romney”s Mormonism—whether theology or invalid baptism—is not a good argument for voting against him.

If his Mormonism made him likely to wield the power of government to persecute the Church, this would be a good reason to oppose him. He has not really indicated that he is likely to do so, any more than Thomas Jefferson”s Deism or Millard Fillmore”s Know-Nothingism made them use the government to erode the religious liberties of Catholics. No, such misuse of government power has been largely limited to the Obama administration. It is shameful that “Catholics for Obama” tries to obscure this, and equally shameful that they are willing to invoke bad theology under the guise of faithful Catholicism to do so.

—Footnotes—

[1] A mythical beast, I assure you, since practicing Catholics tend to vote differently from non-practicing ones, however hard the pundits try to lump us all together.

[2] A faithful Catholic cannot do this, and any Catholic who willingly helps to procure an abortion receives a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication. Indeed, neither Saint Augustine nor Saint Thomas Aquinas considered abortions to be moral under any circumstances, though the idea idea behind then-Speaker Pelosi”s and Vice President”s Biden”s invocation was that both saints subscribed to Aristotle”s idea of ensoulment as occurring sometime after conception. How the antiquated and scientifically un-informed idea that ensoulment occurs 40 days post-conception for males and 80 days post-conception for females can be cited to support the killing of both through the end of gestation is beyond me, though I suppose it makes sense of sex-selective abortions, albeit before the sex of the child can be determined. This latter development occurs, by modern technological standards, after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Actually, current scientific theory states that biologically the sex of an embryo is determined after about 12-13 weeks, which is some time after males embryos are supposedly ensouled, and after females ones too for that matter.

[3] For example, “Planned Parenthood helps children get health care and prenatal care and does not promote abortion.” This is not a mere misstatement (as Biden”s gaffe about how Planned Parenthood can”t perform abortions) or even a merely misleading statement which is technically true: it is a flat-out lie.

[4] I am also left to wonder who thought it would be a good idea to use religious bigotry to appeal to American Catholics, a group who have been the near-constant target of religious bigotry ourselves.

[5] After all, we have no actual proof that anyone in this campaign is actually a Catholic. Since they are so willing to tell open and flagrant lies about other things [3], why, exactly, should we believe them when they claim to be Catholics?

[6] Or maybe I should say that their canon of the Bible is much closer to the Catholic canon than the Mormon one is, adding no books and subtracting only seven plus a few other fragments, which the Mormons also do. The Mormons, on the other hand, have a whole new (and substantial) book which they add to Scripture.

[7] Though to be fair, many of these presidents who are “personally anti-Catholic” or from denominations or sects which have been historically anti-Catholic have been among the worst presidents in the nation”s history, so there”s that.

[8] The results of this line of questions aren”t pretty, unfortunately. On the whole, however, I think that Mormonism comes closer or ends in a draw with President Obama”s own flavor of Protestantism, even if Mr Romney”s morals do not look like a shining beacon of hope for the pro-life movement.

[9] Of course, Article VI Paragraph 3 of the Constitution of the United States of America states that we should not have such religious litmus tests for president, but that”s a discussion for another day.

[10] The Catechism of the Council of Trent also notes that baptism does result in the outpouring of virtues (RC Part II Question L), but the Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies for us that these are primarily the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) and the ability to grow in virtue, both in the context of helping to sanctify the baptized through the grace of justification (CCC 1266). Although public and private morality are intertwined—and thus public and private virtues—this is not an indication that being baptized makes a person a better temporal leader.

[10] Albeit one which is at least reasonable and worth taking.

The Art of Over and Over Again

The curly-haired woman with the bright orange shirt looks up, gently plays a chord on her guitar, and for the third time this morning, kills a little piece of my soul.

Ooooohhhhhhhh Suuuuusssssaaannnnaaaa!!! Doooonnncha cryyy foooorrrr mmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

Children’s singers are absolutely merciless. And I dislike, nay, I detest, this video.

My little boy, Arthur, is entranced. He loves this video with a single-minded devotion. I do everything I can to disrupt our routine: I try to entice him with Sesame Street, Veggie Tales, Barney… anything rather than go through our requisite 3-5 daily viewings of Laurie Berkner’s children’s music. But every time, Arthur brings me the remote and points at the TV until I switch it back.

So with a sigh and a smile, I hit “play” one more time. And one more time, my one-year-old son giggles with delight as Ms. Berkner masterfully narrates one man’s epic struggle to come from Alabama with a banjo on his knee.

G.K. Chesterton once said that “because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Perhaps I ought to be ashamed of being such a grown-up.

***

Of the seven Sacraments, the Catholic Church recognizes only two when they are done by non-Catholic ministers: Baptism and Marriage. Any Baptism done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is recognized. And any Marriage between two baptized persons is sacramental. It’s as if those two are so crucial to humanity, so absolutely essential to our life as a species, that God goes outside of the Church looking for us, His lost sheep, bringing with Him only His two trusty Sacraments of new Life.

Pope Benedict recently had this to say about Baptism: “The choice of the expression ‘in the name of the Father’ in the Greek text is very important: the Lord says ‘eis’ and not ‘en,’ and so not ‘in the name’ of the Trinity like we say that a vice-prefect speaks ‘in the name’ of the prefect, an ambassador speaks ‘in the name’ of the government. No. He says ‘eis to onoma,’ meaning an immersion into the name of the Trinity, a being inserted into the name of the Trinity, an interpenetration of the being of God and our being, a being immersed in God the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just as in marriage, for example, two persons become one flesh, become one single new reality, with a single new name.”

I’ve been to several Catholic baptisms, and they’re always grand affairs. The child, whether boy or girl, is dressed in a beautiful white christening gown. Family and friends and godparents all gather around. Satan is denounced and cast out, solemn vows to raise the child in the faith are made, and, if we’re lucky, cake is served.

And after the bouncing baby is brought into the very name of the Triune God, he is invited to live life in an utterly predictable way. Sometime around the second grade, he will receive his first Holy Communion, just like all the other boys and girls. Sometime around sophomore year of high school, he will be Confirmed, just like all the other boys and girls. And if he persists as a faithful Catholic, he will go to Mass each Sunday, making the sign of the Cross the same way, kneeling at all the same times, hearing the same liturgy time after time, partaking of the Eucharist over and over again.

And it will be beautiful, over and over again. This life into the name of the Trinity, this marriage to God, is wonderfully, gloriously routine.

Weddings are pretty similar to Baptisms. The Bride wears a beautiful white wedding gown. She and the Groom are surrounded by family and friends and that old roommate that nobody liked but had to be invited. Life as a single person is renounced, solemn vows of faithfulness to each other are made, and, if we’re lucky, cake is served.

And then you wake up the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. And…

***

What’s the number-one reason given for why boyfriends don’t propose to girlfriends? Fear of commitment, of course. And what are they afraid of committing to? Monotony. Repetition. The doldrums of routine. They’re afraid of what it will be like to wake up to the exact same person, day after day after day.

They’re afraid that, after the millionth time in a row, “Oh Susanna!” won’t be their favorite song anymore.

But at every Eucharist the priest intones “This is my Body, which will be given up for you,” and every morning, I look at my beautiful wife, and tell her again that I love her. And each and every time is wonderful, an act of self-giving that never gets old. Maybe if we were just a little less grown-up, if we became like the little children that Jesus told us to imitate, we would grasp the majesty of the monotonous. We often say of the boyfriend who won’t settle down that he “needs to grow up.” Perhaps he’s too grown-up for the glory that’s on offer to him.

The Sacrament of Marriage is an invitation to the sublimity of the routine. Because Life and Love, Bride and Bridegroom, Eucharist and Marriage, are beautiful, over and over and over again…

[author] Ryan M. is a husband, the proud dad of a one-year-old boy (and another one on the way!), a math teacher, and a recent law school graduate. After years of searching, praying, and reading, he and his family were received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil this past April. Ryan enjoys writing about the beauty and grace he’s found in the Catholic faith on his blog, Back of the World. [/author]