Rev. Mark Watson/Pastor
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
Almost 90 days ago we began the Season of Lent. Lent was a time of turning away from sin and toward God and a time of reflecting on the meaning of baptism. Lent ended with the celebration of the Triduum on Holy Thursday evening. On Easter Sunday we began the Season of Easter. Throughout the Easter Season, we have reflected on the meaning of the resurrection of Christ and the new life that we have received through Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost which is the celebration of the sending of the Holy Spirit. This Feast which closes the Season of Easter is also the last event in the Paschal Mystery – the Suffering, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Sending of the Spirit which are the central mysteries of our faith.
The Holy Spirit which we receive gives us gifts which allow us to minister within and outside of the Church. My reflection on the working of the Holy Spirit has led me to ask a question. How do we open ourselves to both hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to live out the gifts of the Holy Spirit? The answer for me is twofold. First, we are to be a people of prayer and reflection who listen to the Spirit within. Second, we are to live lives of holiness which do not quench the presence of the Holy Spirit. The holiness of life allows us to listen to God and then to faithfully follow the promptings of God.
Last week I wrote an article about an Audience on Baptism presented by Pope Francis on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Today I will write an article about his second presentation given on Wednesday, January 15, 2014, on Baptism. Over the next few weekends, I will write articles based on the audiences that the Pope presented on each of the Sacraments.
The Pope began his presentation by reminding those present that in Baptism we are made members of the Body of Christ and are incorporated into the People of God. “In the school of the Second Vatican Council, we say today that Baptism allows us to enter the People of God, to become members of a People on a journey, a people on a pilgrimage through history.”
From generation to generation, through rebirth at the baptismal font, grace is transmitted, and through this grace the Christian People journeys through time. From the time of Jesus until today there has been a transmission of faith through Baptism. We, the baptized are a link in the chain of grace through which the faith has been carried forward throughout history. Through Baptism we become members of the People of God which journeys and hands down the faith.
The Pope next indicated that through baptism we become missionary disciples called to bring the Gospel to the world. The next quoted the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “’All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization…The new evangelization calls for personal involvement’…for everyone, the whole People of God.” The Pope stated that all members of the Church are disciples because they are called to receive the faith and all members of the Church are called to be missionaries because they are called to transmit the faith.
In speaking of the truth that “No one is saved by himself.” the Pope states that while the love of God precedes us all, at the same time we are called to be “channels” of grace for one another. The truth that the Church is a community of believers is an integral part of Christian life, of witness and evangelization.
The Pope ends his second presentation by using the history of the Christian community of Japan to speak of the importance of Baptism for the People of God. The Christians of Japan suffered great persecution at the start of the 17th century. At that time many members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of the faithful were killed. In time there were no priests left in Japan, they were all expelled. The Christian community retreated into hiding, keeping the faith in seclusion. When a child was born the mother and father would baptize the child. “When, after roughly two and a half centuries, 250 years later, missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians stepped out into the open and the Church was able to flourish again. They survived by the grace of Baptism!” They were able to maintain even in hiding a strong communal spirit because Baptism had made of them one single body in Christ.
As we celebrate Pentecost let us give thanks for the Sacrament of Baptism in which we first received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Mark