What do you remember about your baptism? If you were baptized as an infant, you have probably seen pictures of the event, but have no real memory of your own Christening. If you were older, you may have been baptized at the Easter Vigil, and remember it vividly. But not remembering your baptism does not mean that you do not experience fully and continually the effect of receiving this sacrament of initiation into the Christian faith into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. It is, in fact, indelible.
This year, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Benedict XVI baptized thirteen babies in the Sistine chapel, before the famous representation of the Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Pope John Paul II had said of this fresco, in a homily in April 1994, “If before the Last Judgment we are dazzled by splendor and fear, admiring on the one hand the glorified bodies and on the other those subjected to eternal damnation, we also understand that the entire vision is deeply permeated by one light and one artistic logic: the light and logic of the faith that the Church proclaims by confessing: ‘I believe in one God ... creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible’”.
The light and logic of the faith. It springs from the font of God’s eternal love, the living water we receive by His grace at baptism.
Pope Benedict explained the mystery of baptism in his homily: “God wanted to save us by going Himself into the very depths of the abyss of death so that every man, even he who has fallen so deep into the abyss as to no longer see heaven, can find the hand of God by which he can climb back up out of the darkness to see the light again for which he is made.
“All of us feel, all of us interiorly perceive that our existence is a desire for life that invokes a fullness, a salvation. This fullness of life is given to us by baptism”.
In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict wrote, “The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” (Spe Salvi 2)
Only this faith, this hope in Christ has the power to rescue each of us from the impenetrable darkness of our world, of our own lives. It is this hope that can pull us out of the “abyss of death” that makes us numb to truth and blind to love and life. In baptism we are immersed in the very self-emptying of Christ His Paschal sacrifice and at the same time we are united to His resurrection from the death He suffered for our redemption.
Each year as we participate in the events of Holy Week, the institution of the Eucharist, the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ, culminating in the triumph of Jesus Christ over darkness and death by His resurrection on Easter day, we recall our baptism and renew our baptismal promises. Our baptism truly liberates us from the impenetrable darkness of sin, but this freedom we are given through God’s merciful love also carries with it a responsibility: to bring God’s love and truth and justice to the world in our own time. This is the foundation of our life as Christians. We have been given this gift of faith and hope in order to give it to others.
In this issue of Voices, you will read about wisdom and the lack of it in the crucial area of Catholic education and the authentic formation of consciences. And you will also find cogent reports on the social and political front, as well as examples of courage in the face of darkness and evil.
Pope Benedict, in Sacramentum Caritatis, emphasized the urgent need to teach and promote the Church’s social doctrine:
“In a particular way, the Christian laity, formed at the school of the Eucharist, are called to assume their specific political and social responsibilities. To do so, they need to be adequately prepared through practical education in charity and justice”. In her social doctrine, the Holy Father wrote, “the fruit of the Church’s whole history, is distinguished by realism and moderation; it can help to avoid misguided compromises or false utopias”.
This is a great responsibility for each of us. We may see it as our share of the Cross. How can we assume this weighty burden?
As Saint John’s Gospel says, “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the Sons of God”. We rely on this promise, this everlasting hope we received first in baptism. It is the well-spring of our lives and the ground in which we root our actions. It is also is the source of the courage and wisdom that guides Christians in our actions in our daily lives, and provides the foundation of our decisions and involvement in the burning social issues of today.
And it is this hope in God’s love that every believer is obliged to bring to everyone our families, our communities, and the whole world: to “open the dark door of time” that imprisons and crushes and kills so that all may perceive the liberating light of truth. From this springs our eternal hope that “an Easter of unending joy we may receive at last”.
May God richly bless you this Eastertide,
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