Rejoice in the Lord, brothers and sisters! The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds. This is our well-founded faith.
At one point in time, all of us were baptized. As of that moment, the Holy Spirit of Christ began to guard our hearts and minds, having sealed them with His mark for the day of glory.
For each of us, our baptism into Christ, into the Trinity—it happened in a particular place, on a given moment in time. Probably in a baptistery of some kind, in a church; probably on a happy and proud day for mom and dad. For me, it was October 18, 1970, in a church on New York Avenue, N.W., in downtown Washington, D.C.
I was a babe in arms then, much shorter than I am now…
Anyone else get baptized as a baby? Aw, everyone gets baptized as a baby! Well, not exactly everyone.
Like: all the Apostles, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Josephine Bakhita, the emperor Constantine, Thomas Merton, and Bob Dylan, to name a few. They were all baptized as adults.
Anyway, as we read, St. John the Baptist prophesied that we would be baptized into Christ. He prophesied that the Holy Spirit would come upon us and take charge of guiding us to eternal bliss.
Going back to those happy and proud moments for our moms and dads… When our respective baptisms occurred, someone professed the faith of the Church. Probably our parents, along with our godparents.
I believe what the Church believes, please baptize me!
Or: We believe what the Church believes and we want that for our child, too. Please baptize our baby!
In other words, Holy Baptism—and all the sacraments, for that matter: sacraments of faith.
The sacraments deliver invisible, incomprehensible grace from God; they deliver the invisible undying life that we believe in. They deliver all this invisible goodness through the use of simple things that we can see. Because, as we believe, God has united heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible, in His incarnate Son.
That is: We believe in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. We believe in His Holy Spirit. We believe in heaven. We see water in the baptismal font. We see the bread and wine that we lay on the altar. We see a tall goofball prepared to hear our confessions, baptize our babies, and say the words of Jesus. We see the sacramental elements that the Lord Jesus commanded us to use. We believe that He does with these elements precisely what He said He would do with them, when we use them in the way He told us. And we believe, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it, that:
Christ offers man the light and strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. (Gaudium et Spes 10)
From one point-of-view, the content of our Creed, the elements used in the sacraments, the whole business of the profession and the practice of our Catholic faith—from one point-of-view, from the outside looking in, it can all perhaps seem somewhat arbitrary.
…Wait a minute. Your priest asks you questions that are two thousand years old? Then he pours water on your baby’s head? And this makes you happy and satisfied? He puts unleavened bread on the altar, with wine, and prays. Now it’s God present in the flesh? WTF?
But from our point-of-view, from the inside: we know that we cannot really survive even a single day without the Christian faith into which we were baptized.
It’s not like the outside perspective has anything illuminating to offer us. It’s not that the Catholic faith doesn’t make sense.
It’s that, without the Catholic faith, nothing else makes any sense. Nothing really makes sense at all if Jesus Christ isn’t Who we say He is. But, of course, He is.
Again, as the Fathers of Vatican II put it:
To every thoughtful man, a solidly established faith provides the answers to his anxiety about what the future holds for him. (GS 18)
Our lives as we know them would turn into crushing ordeals of confusion and despair without the faith professed at our baptism. We could hardly get through any year without our faith. But this year is a special Year of Faith.
Why? Because the Pope said it is. But, again, this is hardly arbitrary. This year is the Year of Faith because it marks the fiftieth anniversary of…The Second Vatican Council!
Like the Fathers of Vatican II, we pray for a new Pentecost. We pray for a new flowering of good, upright, and holy living on earth, sustained by faith and the power of God. We pray that mankind could live a truly human life together: peaceful, creative, harmonious, joyful.
To get to Pentecost, though, we need Advent. We need to unite ourselves with the holy ones who have gone before us, who longed with all their hearts for something better than what the world, as we know it now, has to offer. Our faithful ancestors prayed and fasted like mad, because they wanted the Almighty One in Whom they believed to make things better. And He did.