HE IS RISEN! THE LORD IS TRULY RISEN! As the Church celebrates the reality of the empty tomb, it should also be remembered that we have a great many neophytes-new Catholics, who have been baptized and/or received into full communion with Holy Mother Church this weekend. Because the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection is about the rising to new life, the Church has placed a tremendous importance on the sacrament of baptism at Easter and during the Easter season. This is why new adult believers who are not baptized are traditionally baptized at the Easter Vigil. They are dying to sin and to the things of this world, and in baptism are rising to a new life in Jesus Christ. I’ve known a couple of priests over the years who placed enough importance on the connection between the Resurrection and the sacrament of baptism that they exercised the option to give the Asperges, or Rite of Sprinkling, on every Sunday of the Easter Season as a reminder to their parishioners of the importance of their baptisms.
Easter is one of the times of the year that causes me to reflect on my own experience of faith in Christ. Like many of the people who are today newly in full communion with the Holy Catholic Church, I also reached that very milestone in my faith journey as an adult. I vividly remember my own baptism, something that not every Catholic can say, because I was baptized as an adult…I was confirmed and received my first Holy Communion on the same day as well. For me, it happened on Pentecost Sunday of 1998, and I have never looked back. There have been plenty of times when I can say that I didn’t live out my faith in the fullest way that I could and should have. I am (as Pope Francis was keen to remind us about himself in a now-famous interview) a sinner. Thanks be to God, however, I can say that the Lord really began to work in my life from that time until today, and I can see his intervention in hindsight. If, by God’s grace, I am in fact ordained to the diaconate for which I am presently in formation, it is easy for me to see the connection between my baptism and my potential ordination. I was reminded of this during the Litany of the Saints at the Easter Vigil last night.
God had a plan for me that day I was baptized, just as he has for folks like the young lady in this photograph that was taken at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Saturday night by my friend and confrere in formation for the Diocese of Knoxville, Scott Maentz. For God’s plan for us in living out our baptism to be carried out in the way that God himself would will, two things have to happen. First, we ourselves must make the freewill choice to cooperate with God’s grace in our lives and make the decision that we are going to surrender our will to God’s will. Secondly, and even more importantly, we need people to pray for us. Our friends, our fellow parishioners, our families, the communion of saints, even people we do not even know. I am convinced that people have been praying for me for many, many years and they continue to do so, and that is why I continue to be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, will, and call in my own life. If you know someone who has been baptized or received into full communion with the Church this Easter at your parish, find out who they are and pray daily for them. If you are one of the neophytes, and you are reading this post, I am praying for you, and I pray that you will continue to take an active part in the Church. The Body of Christ needs you.
Finally, let us all remember our own baptisms, and pray for God’s will in living them out every day!