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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Baptism the Great Sacrament






We celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday.  Baptism is one of the most important Sacraments …actually needed to receive the other Sacraments of the Church.   

I wanted to write something regarding this great Sacrament, what I have learned—what the Church says about it and why it’s so important.

The first question that comes to mind is WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO BE BAPTIZED?   


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness."19 Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying.20 The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son."21”


Okay, what does that mean--exactly?  I had often wondered about this same question over the years and have discovered through my research an answer that made it easier to understand so I thought that I would share my findings with you. 

"…. Christ is baptized, not that he may be sanctified in the waters, but that he himself may sanctify the waters, and by his own purification may purify those streams which he touches.”
"For the consecration of Christ is the greater consecration of another element.  For when the Savior is washed, then already for our baptism all water is cleansed and the fount purified, that the grace of the laver may be administered to the peoples that come after.  Christ therefore takes the lead in baptism, so that Christian peoples may follow after him with confidence."  (St. Maximus of Turin, 423) Excerpts from:  http://www.catholic.org/hf/faith/story.php?id=44333AD

“…In submitting Himself humbly to the baptism of St. John the Baptist, however, Christ provided the example for the rest of us.  If even He should be baptized, though He had no need of it, how much more should the rest of us be thankful for this sacrament, which frees us from the darkness of sin and incorporates us into the Church, the life of Christ on earth! His Baptism, therefore, was necessary--not for Him, but for us.

Many of the Fathers of the Church, as well as the medieval Scholastics, saw Christ's Baptism as the institution of the sacrament. His Flesh blessed the water, and the descent of the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and the voice of God the Father announcing that this was His Son, in Whom He was well pleased, marked the beginning of Christ's public ministry.” http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Baptism_of_Lord.htm

Here are the Readings for this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord:



Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7, or Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 
Psalm 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10, or Psalm 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30; 
Acts 10:34-38 or Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7; 
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22



“What a wonderful God is our God” as Mother Angelica has said… Yes, He IS wonderful!!  


Let me now share with you more about this sacrament—it’s definition and it’s effects on the soul.


1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),4 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: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."5 Catechism of the Catholic Church,  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a1.htm



Pope Francis had this to say about the Sacrament.  “This sacrament constitutes a true immersion in the death of Christ, to rise with him in a new life. It is a bath of regeneration by water and the Spirit and that illuminates us with the grace of Christ,” the Pope expressed in his Nov. 13 (2013) address.  Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-francis-baptism-is-a-bath-of-regeneration#ixzz2qaYokoFq


The Effects of the Sacrament of Baptism:

Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:

1. The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).

2. The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).

3.  The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.(see below)

4.  Becoming a part of Christ.

5.  Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.

6.  Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, "They (the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit) complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them." When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as if by instinct...

1. Wisdom ~ Not from Books...



 The Wisdom that we receive through the Sacrament of Baptism is not one to help us with science, chemistry, math.... It's a more profound Wisdom of  the Spirit....

Wisdom is the perfection of faith. As Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, "Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves." ... Thus wisdom, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven." Through wisdom, we judge the things of the world in light of the highest end of man—the contemplation of God.

Such detachment, however, is not the same as renunciation of the world—far from it. Rather, wisdom helps us to love the world properly, as the creation of God, rather than for its own sake. The material world, though fallen as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, is still worthy of our love; we simply need to see it in the proper light, and wisdom allows us to do so.
 Knowing the proper ordering of the material and spiritual worlds through wisdom, we can more easily bear the burdens of this life and respond to our fellow man with charity and patience. http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Wisdom.htm


2. Understanding ~ of the Divine

Understanding is the second gift of the Holy Spirit, behind only wisdom. ...Wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, while understanding allows us,... become certain of the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity. Such certitude moves beyond faith, which "merely assents to what God has revealed."


Understanding rises above natural reason, which is concerned only with the things we can sense in the world around us. Thus, understanding is both speculative—concerned with intellectual knowledge—and practical, because it can help us to order the actions of our lives toward our final end, which is God. Through understanding, we see the world and our life within it in the larger context of the eternal law and the relation of our souls to God. 
http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Understanding.htm


3. Counsel ~ Choosing Correctly


Counsel is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence...Counsel allows us to judge rightly what we should do in a particular circumstance. It goes beyond prudence, though, in allowing such judgments to be made promptly, "as by a sort of supernatural intuition," as Fr. John A. Hardon writes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary. ..."With the gift of counsel, the Holy Spirit speaks, as it were, to the heart and in an instant enlightens a person what to do," writes Father Hardon. It is the gift that allows us as Christians to be assured that we will act correctly in times of trouble and trial. Through counsel, we can speak without fear in defense of the Christian Faith. Thus, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, counsel "enables us to see and choose correctly what will help most to the glory of God and our own salvation."...
4. Fortitude 

Fortitude is commonly called courage, but it is different from what much of what we think of as courage today. Fortitude is always reasoned and reasonable; the person exercising fortitude is willing to put himself in danger if necessary, but he does not seek danger for danger's sake.
Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of obstacles. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it.
It also shows itself, as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "in moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous." Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs, who are willing to give their lives rather than to renounce their faith. That sacrifice may be passive—Christian martyrs do not actively seek martyrdom—but it is nonetheless determined and resolute.
7. Knowledge

Knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life as God sees them, albeit in a more limited way, since we are limited by our human nature. Through the exercise of knowledge, we can ascertain God's purpose in our lives and His reason for placing us in our particular circumstances...
"it enables those who have the gift to discern easily and effectively between the impulses of temptation and the inspirations of grace." Judging all things in the light of divine truth, we can more easily distinguish between the promptings of God and the subtle wiles of the devil.
6. Piety - A Gift of the Holy Spirit

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., notes in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, is "The moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render to God the worship and service he deserves." Far from being a drudgery, worship should be an act of love, and piety is the instinctive affection for God that makes us desire to render worship to Him, just as we voluntarily honor our parents... It instills in us a desire always to do that which is pleasing to God..."
http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Piety.htm


7. Fear of the Lord


The fear of the Lord is the desire not to offend Him, and the certainty that He will give us the grace necessary to keep from doing so. It is that certainty that gives us hope.
The fear of the Lord is like the respect we have for our parents. We do not wish to offend them, but we also do not live in fear of them, in the sense of being frightened...it is not a fear of punishment, but a desire not to offend God that parallels our desire not to offend our parents... the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because it is one of the foundations of our religious life,
http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Fear_of_the_Lord.htm


The Three Theological Virtues

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY (LOVE) 




"A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.63 "
 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm
 
Unlike the cardinal virtues, which can be practiced by anyone, the theological virtues are gifts of grace from God, and the object of the virtues—what the practice of the virtue aims at—is God Himself.
 "1813 The theological virtues are the foundation of Christian moral activity; they animate it and give it its special character. They inform and give life to all the moral virtues. They are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being. There are three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.77" 
FAITH

Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God."78 For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will. "The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."79
1815 The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it.80 But "faith apart from works is dead":81 when it is deprived of hope and love, faith does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body.
1816 The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: "All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks."82 Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: "So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."83

 
HOPE 
"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful."84 "The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life."85
1818 The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity...
"...We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will.92 In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end"93 and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for "all men to be saved."94 She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven..."
CHARITY

Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.
1823 Jesus makes charity the new commandment.96 By loving his own "to the end,"97 he makes manifest the Father's love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive. Whence Jesus says: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love." And again: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."98
1824 Fruit of the Spirit and fullness of the Law, charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: "Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love."99
1825 Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies."100 The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself.101

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a7.htm