Archive for category Sacraments

Mark 1:7-11: The Baptism of Jesus (Solemnity of the Lord’s Baptism)

One time three pastors were discussing about bat infestation in their churches. “I got so mad,” said one, “I took a shotgun and fired at them. Some got killed but the majority are still up there.” “I tried pesticide spray,” said the second pastor, “but those damn bats gave birth to new ones.” “I haven’t had any more problems,” said the third pastor.“What did you do?” asked the interested two. “I simply baptized them,” he replied. “I haven’t seen them in church since then!”

Indeed, like those bats, after baptism, many Christians are never seen in church again. This is what the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called “unchurched.” “Unchurched” has three categories:

First, the “nominal catholics.” These refer to the catholics in name only or the so-called KBL (Kasal, Binyag, Libing) Christians. Or, as one Bishop described it: Katolikong nakaalala lamang sa Dios tuwing panahon ng Kulog at kidlat, Baha at bagyo, Lahar at lindol. Or, as someone put it, Christians who come to church only three times in their whole lifetime – when they are “hatched, matched, dispatched” … to the cemetery or memorial garden, that is.

Second, the “uninformed and unformed faithful.” These refer to that many baptized Catholic Christians who grow up grossly ignorant of religious instructions and their obligations as Christians and were not formed by Christian values and virtues. There is a story said about candidates for marriage who were personally interviewed by the parish priest in a far flung area. “Do you know any dogma of the Church?” asked the priest. The girlfriend to save his boyfriend from embarrassment due to ignorance immediately answered, “The dogma of the Holy Trinity, Father!”  Then the priest threw another question, “How many God do Christians have?” “Of course, one, Father,” answered the girlfriend. Then the priest gave a follow-up question, “How many divine persons in God?” “Obviously, its three divine persons, Father,” said the girlfriend. Finally, the priest turned his attention to the boyfriend and asked, “How about you? Do you have any idea what or who are the three persons in God?” The boyfriend, caught in his ignorance, responded, “Melchor, Gaspar and Balthasar.” He confused the Holy Trinity with the Three Kings.

Third, the”uninterested parishioners.” These refer to the majority of Christian parishioners who are indifferent, lukewarm and uninvolved to the mission, mission and goals of the parish. In particular, uninterested to get involved with any program, project and activity of the parish. Examples of these are the Catholic parishioners who never go to Mass, who never confess their grave sins even at least once a year during Lenten season, who never receive communion, who never observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinent, who never keep holy Sunday and other holy days of obligation, and lastly, who never provide to the best of their ability for the material needs of the Church.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is baptized not because he is a sinner but because he wants to be in solidarity with us especially in our journey towards the Kingdom of God. That he is with us and is one of us. Furthermore, the baptism of Jesus is more of  a revelation of who he is and what his mission should be. As William Barclay writes: “So in the baptism there came to Jesus two certainties–the certainty that he was indeed the chosen One of God, and the certainty that the way in front of him was the way of the Cross.”

As we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we are reminded of the necessity of baptism in relation to our salvation and the mission entrusted to us when we were baptized in the Lord. Is baptism really necessary? Yes, because baptism is or calls us to:

B – bath of rebirth. Original and actual sins are washed away and the baptized becomes a new creation
A – anointing with the Holy Spirit. The baptized, like Jesus, is anointed as priest, prophet and king.
P – erfection of Charity and Fullness of Christian life when it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.
T – otal dedication and commitment to live the truth of faith in every moment and aspect of life.
I – nterior repentance and conversion toward new life in Christ.
S – eal of salvation. The baptized is sealed with indelible character that he belongs to Christ and marked to be saved.
M – ission to bear fruits of holiness and evangelization.

St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that to glorify God is to be “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:21). Hence, faith and baptism are joined as preconditions of salvation (Mark 16:16). It is, therefore, fitting and praiseworthy to renew our baptismal promises to love God above all and to reject Satan and all his wickedness.

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John 13:1-15 The washing of the disciples’ feet

“With the celebration of Mass on the evening of Holy Thursday, “the Church begins the Easter Triduum and recalls the Last Supper in which the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, showing his love for those who were his own in the world, he gave his body and blood under the species of bread and wine offering to his Father and giving them to the Apostles so that they might partake of them, and he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to perpetuate this offering” [Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (Prot. 0) January 16, 1988, Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship)

Christ whole life expresses his mission: “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (cf. CCC 608).

By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end,” for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 13:1; 15:13). In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men. Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his passion and death (cf. CCC 609).

Jesus gave the supreme expression of his free offering of himself at the meal shared with the twelve apostles “on the night he was betrayed” (Roman Missal, EP III; cf. Mt 26:20; 1 Cor 11:23). On the eve of his passion, while still free, Jesus transformed this last supper with the apostles into a memorial of his voluntary offering to the Father for the salvation of men: “This is my body which is given for you.” This is my blood of the covenant,which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 22:19; Mt 26:28; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).

The Eucharist that Christ institutes at the moment will be a memorial of his sacrifice (1 Cor 11:25). Jesus includes the apostles in his own offering and bids them to perpetuate it. By doing so, the Lord institutes his apostles as priests of the New Covenant (cf. CCC 611).

For the twelve apostles and all the believers alike there is only one perfect model of humility, service and love, of which others are simply a reflection: Jesus Christ. Paul himself must only be imitated because he imitates Christ (1 Co 4, 16; 11,1). This is the fundamental novelty: thanks to Jesus, Son of God made man, man is able to imitate God himself (E 5,1), Henceforth, man can imitate the example of the Lord and follow him doing the path of the humble love that made him offer up his own life (Jn 13,15; E5,2; 1 P2,21; 1 Jn 2, 16; 3,16 ); he can love his brethren as Jesus loved them (Jn 13,34; 15,12; Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Example).

Jesus makes the mission of the (Suffering) Servant his own: a master meek and humble of heart (Mt 11,29), who announces salvation to the poor (Lk 4,18f), he is in the midst of his disciples “as one who served” (Lk 22,27), he, who is their Lord and their master (Jn 13,12-15); and he goes to the very limits of the demands of the love which inspires this service (Jn 13,11; 12-15) by giving his life for the redemption of the multitude of sinners (Mk 10,43ff; Mt 20,26ff). It is for this that, treated like a criminal (Lk 22,37), he dies on the cross (Mk 14,24; Mt 26,28), knowing that he will rise again, as it is written of the Son of Man (Mk 8,3 p; 9,31 p; Lk 18,3ff p; 24,44; cf. 53,10ff). If then he is the expected Messiah, the Son of Man does not come to re-establish a temporal kingdom, but to enter into his glory and to lead his people there by passing through the death of the Servant (Xavier Leon-Dufour Ed., Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Upd. Second ed., Servant).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus who is teacher and lord at the meal shared with his twelve apostles on the night he was betrayed scandalizes his disciples when he washes their feet. The task is reserved for the lowliest of slaves in the Jewish master households. This is how low Jesus sinks in obedience to his Father who wishes that men and women be saved (see 1 Tim 2:3-4).The washing of feet is really an anticipation of Jesus giving all on Calvary the next day at the same time his legacy, model and living example to follow: “Do you realize what I have done. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one’s another feet: I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (cf Jn 13: 12-15).

History has shown us that person in power and authority is always tempted by pride, arrogance, honor, fame, wealth and corruption. Conscious of all these, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope from 590 to 640, adopted a title which has been applied to all Peter’s successors, a relevant reminded of Jesus’ teaching. The title is: “servos servorom” which means “the servant of servants of God” or “the least of all servants.”

Concerning the title, there is a story told written by Fr. Gerry Orbos about the lovable good old Pope John XXIII. On his way to Vatican, he made a surprise visit to a convent where nuns of the Holy Spirit Congregation resided.

The whole community led by their superior came out to meet the Pope. “And who are you?”  asked the Pope to the religious nun who was the first to greet him. The sister who was excited and nervous, blurted our, “Your Holiness, I am the mother superior of the Holy Spirit!”

“Mother Superior of the Holy Spirit?” said the Pope amused. “Lucky are you sister, I am only the servant of all servants of God.

This story reminds us all especially those who are persons in authority and power that authority  do not consists in dominion

 

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