Baptism and Common Priesthood
(Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1066-1284)
January 13, 2013 Baptism and Common Priesthood
(Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1066-1284)
In this year of faith, it is our desire to look at the documents of the II Vatican Council, as well as to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I would like today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, to start with the exposition of the Sacraments according to the Catechism, and particularly Baptism.
The sacraments are treated within the context of liturgy, they are part of the liturgy. As we know, the liturgy is the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, in which the Church continues the work of our redemption. In other words, the salvation of Jesus reaches us through the liturgy, and especially through the sacraments. Or as St. Leo the Great said: ?what was visible in our Savior has passed over into his sacraments? (Catechism, 1116).
In the first section the Catechism will deal with liturgy and sacraments in general, and in the second with each particular sacrament. Today we will see the first section and the sacrament of Baptism.
1. The first section tells us that the Liturgy is the work of the Holy Trinity. ®When anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes¯ (1088). When we hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit moves us not only to hear, but to give an answer of faith to the Word we hear (Cf. 1102).
Then we move to the seven sacraments, instituted by Christ and recognized as such by the Church.
®As she has done for the canon of Sacred Scripture and for the doctrine of the faith, the Church, by the power of the Spirit who guides her ?into all truth,? has gradually recognized this treasure received from Christ and [?] has determined its ?dispensation.? Thus the Church has discerned over the centuries that among liturgical celebrations there are seven that are, in the strict sense of the term, sacraments instituted by the Lord¯ (1117).
These are Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the sick, Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders.
These sacraments come from Jesus, and because of that they cannot be modified (Cf. 1125). They produce salvation ?by the very fact that the action is performed?. ®It follows that ?the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.?ÿFrom the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them¯. That?s why, even when we don?t like the priest, we come to Mass anyway, because the communion we receive does not depend on the holiness of the minister, but on the power of God through the sacrament. Same thing applies to confession, to baptism, etc. Nobody is ?more baptized? because he has been baptized by Fr. Pio de Pietralcina, for example.
This first section ends with four questions, that apply to the whole liturgy: ?Who celebrates the liturgy??, meaning Christ and each one of us, in his or her own way. ?How is the liturgy celebrated??, meaning the visible signs that are used in our celebrations. ?When is the liturgy celebrated??, where we find indications about the liturgical year and the liturgy of the hours, and finally ?Where is the liturgy celebrated??, with helpful indications for those who want to know how a beautiful church must be. The issue about the different rites in the Catholic Church and the possibility and norms for an adaptation of the liturgy to the different cultures are the conclusion of this section.
2. The second section is the treatise on the seven sacraments. The sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Communion) will be treated first. The chapter on Baptism has seven points. First, what the word ?baptism? means: it means immersion in the water, which is a symbol of burial. Because baptism is a participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus, those who are baptized are dead to sin and rise again to a new life of love in Christ.
Second, the Catechism shows us how Baptism comes from the Bible and was instituted by Jesus. From the Bible we know also that ®Baptism is a bath that purifies [from sin], justifies [gives divine life], and sanctifies¯ (1227). Third, we are told how baptism is celebrated, and the meaning of the different signs: anointing, candle, white garment, etc. The fourth point is about who can receive baptism: it is stated that only human beings can be baptized? not only adults but also children, and there is a beautiful and very clear explanation of the possibility and fittingness of baptizing children.
Fifth point is about the minister of baptism. On a regular basis, the ordinary minister is the bishop, priests and deacons, but in case of necessity any person, even a non-baptized person, is able to baptize. Christian mothers should know this, and in case of an accident (may God forbid it) they themselves or whoever can baptize their children. How should I do it? You pour any water you find and say ?I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?. Further explanations of this particular possibility are in the Catechism.
The sixth point is about the necessity of baptism. ®The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation (Cf. John 3:5).ÿHe also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20).ÿBaptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord¯ (1257).
On the other hand (1260) ®Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved¯. Many other things are said.
The last point is about the effects of baptism. ®The two principal effects are purification from sins and new birth in the Holy Spirit¯. The baptism forgives all sins, original sin and personal sins in those who are baptized as adults, without necessity of confession. But some effects of sin, like illness and concupiscence are left ®so that we may fight¯, since ?an athlete is not crowned unless he competes? (2Tim 2:5, Cf. CCC 1264). We will leave the second effect of baptism for the next homily.
How many beautiful things we can learn of our faith! I am very happy that people finished the copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we had in the office. Please take a time to know more about your faith. Read the Bible, the Catechism, the II Vatican Council. May God help us to deepen our faith and to live according to it. We ask this through the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary.