Saturday, March 26, 2011
Blog # 139 Living Faith
Blog # 139 Living Faith This morning I was reflecting upon what it means for us to be holy. In my concordance I found hundreds of references using the word holy. I did not have time to read them all . One in particular from the Hebrew Bible attracted my attention. It was Leviticus 11:44 : " I, the Lord, am your God and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy." My reflection had begun with a desire on my part to further clarify for myself the meaning in our Catholic faith of what we know in theology as the gift of Sanctifying Grace, the gift that makes us holy. The immediate reference in Leviticus is to the command of God for His people not to be contaminated by eating food that would be designated by God as "unclean". Through their obedience they would be uniting themselves with God's desire, an experience that fits very easily into the definition of love. In Luke 6:36 Jesus tells His disciples they are to "be merciful just as your Father is merciful." Then we have Jesus praying in John's Gospel (17: 20 - 23,26) to the Father : "I pray...that all may be one, as we are one---I living in them, you living in me---that their unity may be complete. So shall the world know that you loved them as you loved me...To them I have revealed your name...so that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them. And in John 14:23 Jesus says: " Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwellng place with him." In our Catholic theology these and similar texts apply to the gift of Sanctifying Grace, a share in God's divine life in a limited human way, making us holy and given by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, lost or distorted by the betrayal of sin. At the entrance of all our Catholic churches is a font of blessed water. It is intended to be a reminder to all of us coming into church of our Baptism. Dipping our hand into the water and making the sign of the Cross is an invitation to renew our faith in the meaning and effect of our Baptism. Born into a deeply faithful Catholic family, my Baptism occurred when I was just three weeks old. Two of my cousins, one on my mother's side of the family and the other on my father's side came with their families from the Bronx and from Brooklyn to be my Godparents. As in the experience of my natural birth three weeks before so now in the experience of my second birth 'from above' I had nothing to do with it but to be there. I could not buy it. It could not earned. It was a gift, by nature something that can only be received. I was to receive the gift of new life, born from above, God's love within me, a gift that only God could offer. All I had to do was grow up and believe in it, to make God's love my own, to be holy, compassionate, merciful, loved as the Father loves Jesus, called to do God's will in union with Jesus for the rest of my life and into eternity! WOW ! Though the sounds of it meant nothing to me that first day of my new-born life in Jesus , the priest said in Latin as he poured the water over my head: "Charles Matthew, I Baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." If he did it correctly he did not say "Amen" , as we usually do whenever the three Divine Persons come together in prayer. I have always interpreted this omission of the Amen in the Baptismal rite as a deliberate choice on the part of the Church to offer the person being Baptized an invitation and opportunity of living out the new identity he or she receives through our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism as a member of the Church, a branch on the Vine, vivified and made holy with the presence of our living God within us. Amen means Yes. At my present age, and starting at the age of five, if I had been made aware of it in my religious education experiences and had accepted the invitation to fill the gap left by the omission of the Amen at the time I was Baptized I would have willfully and freely, joyfully and hopefully done that with my own personal Amen all through the years of my life at least twice a day in the mornings and at bedtime a minimum of well over fifty five thousand times! Praying the Amen! of our Baptism could be compared to signing a contract with a Company or a pro ball team, making a commitment to do a certain thing for the Company or team, to keep myself up on the development of the buiness or to keep myself in the physical shape that will permit me to play the game the best I can. In response to my commitment, the Company and the team grant me identified benefits. The Baptismal Yes prayer has power. In times of temptation, Yes, Lord, Amen! In times of joy, Thank You, Lord, Amen! In sorrow, Be with me, Lord. Amen! In the morning: Amen! At the end of the day: Amen! At the instant of death: I come to do Your will, O lord. Amen!