Life is a gift from God …
Children are God’s gift to us …
We participate in the Priesthood of Christ …
Sacraments of Initiation in the Church …
Dear Members of the English-speaking Catholic Community,
In the previous Newsletter, we reflected on how all baptized and confirmed persons participate in the common priesthood of Christ together with the hierarchical ministerial priesthood to form the one family of God – the Church. In this reflection, we shall study the meaning of being baptized and confirmed, since we are gifted with three adults who have been blessed to receive the sacraments of the Church during Easter this year.
Through the sacraments of Christian Initiation, we are freed from the power of darkness and joined to Christ’s salvific act through his death, resurrection and ascension. We receive the Holy Spirit, we become adopted children of God and heirs to the Kingdom of God, we become part of the holy nation and a royal priesthood (1Pet 2,9). We communicate to God as Our Father and become a member of the Church, where God is present (Eph. 2,22).
This process begins when one is baptized and confirmed. Baptism is the door to life to the Kingdom of God, which Christ offers to all, that we may have eternal life (Jn 3,5). Confirmation makes us more completely the image of the Lord and fills us with the Holy Spirit, so that we may give witness to the triune God, in and to the world, to unite all peoples of different faiths, confessions, cultures and beliefs, to the one true God in Jesus Christ (Ad Gentes, No. 36).
Most of us were children, when we were brought by our parents and Godparents to the Church to be baptized and confirmed. They are the ones who initiated us to the prayers and tradition of the Faith. We definitely want to thank them for this great gift bestowed on us. Adults who were less fortunate, reflect in the course of life, on the “things that matter” while on our journey on this earth and understand the consequences of the “end”. They are inspired, turn to God and to the sacraments through Adult Baptism and Confirmation.
Baptism incorporates us into Christ and forms us into the one family of God. It is indeed a sacramental bond of unity established between the person and Christ, links us to God himself and to all those who have been baptized (Decree of Ecumenism ‘Unitatis redintegrtio’, no. 22.). Hence, we are called and we are indeed the children of God (1Jn 3,1; Rom 8,15; Gal 4,5).
Similar to the sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation is given only once, for it imprints on the soul a definitive character, that is the sign, that Christ has marked the person with the seal of his Spirit, so that he/she may be his witness in the world and have the power to profess the Faith in Christ publicly.
The rite of Confirmation is administered by the laying of hands on the head of the candidate, by the Bishop or a priest who has been given the faculties, with the proper prayer, anointing the person with the oil of chrism and the sign of the cross on the forehead. This tradition from the first Christian community signifies and perpetuates the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
The Holy Spirit consummates the work of the Father in Christ. Primarily, it takes us “out of ourselves” in the act of bearing witness. Giving witness to the Faith is more valuable than techniques of organization and governance employed in the apostolate. It comprises the whole range of mysterious influences, like love, peace, persuasion, consolation etc. that flow out from the human person with its own authenticity and its profound solidarity with others. These personal relationships are purified and transformed through the force of the Spirit who unites us all in communion in the one family of God. In simple words, the grace of the Holy Spirit is a constant growing process within ourselves, that flows outwards from us, in testimony and in prophecy. These two aspects realize our participation in the existence of Christ and our encounter with the Father.
Baptism unites us to Christ, communicates to us the fundamental grace of being united in Christ and therefore adopted children of God. Baptism applies to us the death and resurrection of the Lord. Confirmation gives us the full reality to this act of salvation, in the dialectic of mystical union. Confirmation communicates to us the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The next step we take is to receive Communion at Holy Mass. We do this with the help of the sacrament of Confession to enable us to worthily receive the real body and blood of Christ, so that we have a place in the Kingdom of God. This is also a symbol of unity in the Church. Then, we are armed to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will be ready to proclaim the missionary mandate given to us (Mt 28,18-19), and we can confidently proclaim our Faith to the world, in communion with the whole Church of God. Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist are the three sacraments of Christian initiation. These sacraments communicate the saving actions of the Father in the Son through their Spirit, that must necessarily be considered in their organic unity and the completion of Christian initiation in the Catholic Church.
At this Easter, we not only congratulate our three adults accepted into the Church but we would also want to reflect on our own participation in the Sacraments as we renew our baptismal promises.
I wish you all the greatness of the resurrected Christ.
Cletus Colaço SVD.
Leiter der Englischsprachigen Katholischen Gemeinde.