Monday, April 15, 2002

Baptism: The Sacrament of Faith

Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 10 through 13

In my last post, I said that the Eastertide season is a perfect moment to ponder the mystery of our baptism. Well, JPII presents us with some reflections on baptism in this part of CFL. He focuses on three key elements:

"Baptism regenerates us in the life of the Son of God; unites us to Christ and to his Body, the Church; annoints us in the Holy Spirit, making us spiritual temples."
A regeneration. St. Peter sings, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading." How many of us have such joy and thanksgiving for the gift of our baptism? I know I usually don't. Intellectually, I may know what he says is true. But do I live it? This seems to be another part of the foundation to living the Christian life in ordinary places: a humility rooted in thanks that God has shown us mercy. Without it, we are likely to end up just going through the motions more often than not.

Through baptism, we are made part of Christ's one body. Our mystical union in Christ and, thus, with each other is "an image and extension of that mystical communion that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father in the bond of love, the Holy Spirit." The image of Christ as the vine and his disciples as the branches "sheds light not only on the deep intimacy of the disciples with Jesus but on the necessity of a vital communion of the disciples with each other: all are branches of a single vine."

I think this concept of communion is difficult for us to understand. Partly, I am sure, because it is beyond the reach of our intellect. My search of the Catechism shed no light on the subject for me. Nonetheless, the pope's seems to suggest that, in coming to understand the communion of the trinity, we will come to better understand our comminion in Christ and with his other disciples. Surely this will impact how we live out the Gospel in our lives and interact with those yet to be grafted to the single vine.

By our baptism, we are made "living temples" in which the Holy Spirit dwells. JPII writes that "the Holy Spirit "annoints" the baptized, sealing each with an indelible character..." and causes "the baptized to share in the same mission of Jesus as the Christ, the Savior-Messiah." The emphasis on the indelible character baptism leaves on us is striking to me. Who hasn't had the experience of someone recognizing our Christian roots, even despite our failure to live out the faith well? Baptism changes us. It makes us witnesses. May we remind ourselves of that often so, through grace, we might strive to be positive witnesses.

Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraph 14 of CFL


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