Why Infant Baptism

infant baptism

     Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters have moved away from infant baptism and chosen to baptize only those who are mature enough to make the faith their own. While there is something very beautiful about a young man or woman standing up and accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior this choice is not proper grounds for delaying baptism. When one reads the Epistles of St. Paul he quickly realizes that infant baptism has not only been the tradition of the Church but is a part of the tradition for very good reasons.

     Part of the disagreement between Protestants and Catholics over when baptism should received results from a disagreement over what baptism is. While many Protestants believe that one is saved through baptism, where they accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, Catholics believe that baptism is the beginning of the Christian life. It qualifies the person for the Christian life but doesn’t guarantee he will finish. Man must continue to live a Christian life and is aided in this by the other Sacraments offered by the Church. To explain this teaching Taylor Marshal uses the analogy of a marathon. Baptism registers us for the marathon but it does not guarantee that we will finish.[1]

     Catholics hold that Baptism is the ordinary means of salvation because it incorporates us into Christ. St. Paul makes this claim when he says “for all of you are the children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ.”[2] It is at our baptism that we died with Christ and in dying with Christ can also share in His resurrection. “You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his.”[3] It was in His death that Christ destroyed original sin so it is in our death with Him, through our baptism, that original sin is destroyed in our life. Children are born with original sin, shouldn’t they be invited to die with Christ so as to rise with Him and have original sin destroyed?

     The baptism of infants has been a practice of the Church from the very beginning. St. Paul himself baptized infants. In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul tells us he baptized an entire household which includes children.[4] St. Paul further shows that the baptism of infants is appropriate. He links the circumcision of the Old Testament with baptism. He says tells the Gentiles in Corinth that they do not need to be circumcised because they have been baptized.[5] St. Thomas Aquinas, no doubt knowledgeable of this passage, claims that circumcision was done to infants and is a preparation for baptism.[6] It thus follows that it is entirely appropriate to baptize infants.

     When one reads the Epistles of St. Paul one comes to a deeper understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism. One sees that infant baptism is not only appropriate theologically and is for the good of the child while remaining the constant tradition of the Church.

[1] Marshal, Taylor. The Catholic Perspective on Paul. Dallas: St. John Press, 2012.71.

[2] Gal 3:26-27

[3] Rom 6: 3-5.

[4] “Yes, I did baptize the family of Stephanas, too; but besides these I do not think I baptized anyone.” 1 Cor (1:16)

[5] “In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision performed, not by human hand, but by the complete stripping of your natural self. This is circumcision according to Christ. You have been buried with him by your baptism; by which, too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” (Col 2: 11-12)

[6] ST III q 70 a1

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Ann

     Today we celebrate the feast of Sts. Joachim and Ann, whom tradition holds to be the father and mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While the scriptures do not make mention of today’s saints, there is no doubt the early Church held them in high esteem. By the year 150 texts appear which make mention of their life and in the year 550, just 237 years after Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire the Emperor himself built a Church in Constantinople dedicated to St. Ann.

     As we celebrate today’s feast we are given a glimpse into the import role of parents, after all it was Sts. Joachim and Ann who brought the Blessed Virgin into the world, raised her, and prepared her to be the Mother of God. While these two holy parents did not know what plans God had in store for the Mother of God, they raised her to be a holy woman of faith; they prepared her to know, love and serve God in anyway He asked.

     Sts. Joachim and Ann show us today the important role holy parents play in the raising of their children. While the Blessed Virgin Mary had the abundance of graces required to be the Mother of God it was her parents who instilled the natural virtues in her and prepared her for an eternity as the Mother of God and as our Mother. Holiness does not grow in a vacuum; to be holy we need the witness of holy people to teach us the beauty of a loving relationship with the Lord. There is no doubt that by authentically living out their Jewish faith Sts. Joachim and Ann taught the Blessed Virgin, not simply by words, but by their example of life the way to an intimate relationship with the Father. Just as Sts. Joachim and Ann gave witness of a holy way of life to the Blessed Virgin let us commit ourselves to imitate their example by witnessing lives of holiness to all we encounter especially our children and family and invite others to experience that love by living lives of holiness regardless of what God asks of us.

Living Will; An Ethical Dilemma

   wills-5

     In recent times there seems to be a renewed discussion about the benefits of a living will. While many people praise the living will most medical ethicists advise against them. A closer look at living wills makes it clear that while on paper a living will seems like a great idea in its practical application it is a nightmare that can lead to grave injustices. This short respnse will take a closer look at the ethical dilemma that is the living will.

     A living will is a legal document that a person uses to make his or her wishes made clear with regards to end of life decisions. It attempts to make the autonomy and self determination of an individual available to the person when physically the person is no longer autonomous or self determining. As an official legal document the courts regard these instructions as the preferred basis for treatment.

     While the idea of preserving personal autonomy for someone who no longer physically has it sounds appealing and ethical it simply is not practically possible. There are simply too many possible future situations that each person must try to imagine. Each of these future situations has their own set of burdens and benefits which cannot be truly predicted yet still must be weighed. A person who believes that by filling out a living will they are actually giving themselves personal autonomy in the future are only tricking themselves into believing a reality that does not exist.

     The near infinite possibilities required by a living will make it impossible to have any sort of true informed consent. Informed consent means an agreement made in a particular case with a clear understanding of the current knowledge and well-understood facts. It is simply impossible to make an informed consent about a future event in which you do not have a clear understanding of all the possible facts. Those who are no longer competent to make their own medical decisions and need to rely on their living will cannot be making an informed consent because they can’t truly understand the choice available and do not have the knowledge available to make them.

     In the case of a living will, a choice previously made by an individual is imposed on that person who is no longer able to change his or her mind. This inability of the patient to change his mind in light of the actual circumstances means the patient is not free; he cannot make an informed consent. While a person’s prior wishes should be respected, when a person can no longer make a free choice, caregivers, who are moral agents themselves, should do what is right for the person and not what a person wanted when they were not able to make an informed consent.

     All people, while we may want to cling to our autonomy forever, must realize that dependency is a part of the normal course of human life. We should certainly discuss our wishes with our family, yet we should not trick ourselves into believing that we can make an informed choice about future circumstances in which we cannot have truly accurate knowledge about medical possibilities. We must come to accept that we cannot always have control over our lives and must realize that even the best made plans must be left to prudent caregivers who know the value of our lives and have the moral character to care for us even at the end of life.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Wis 12:13, 16-19 / PS 85:5-6, 9-10, 15-16 / Rom 8:26 – 27 / Mt 13:24-43

     Are cell phones the new cigarettes? That is the question asked in an article that appeared in a popular online news website just a few weeks ago. The article goes on to argue that we are becoming addicted to our cell phones in a similar manner to how people become addicted to cigarettes and warns “an addiction to cigarettes threatens to do significant damage to one’s physical health. When it comes to Smartphone addiction, its our social health that we should worry about.”[1]

     As society becomes more and more addicted to technology we begin to expect the immediate results that come with that technology. Whether you agree with the author of that article or not I think most of us would agree that we live in a word that wants immediate results. All we have to do is turn on the TV to see ads for immediate weight loss diets, or an instant way to get rich; how many of us check Facebook, sports scores, emails ect. constantly on our phones.

     While these advances in technology can be good for society one of the downsides is the tendency that comes with it to make quick judgments. I don’t know about you but every time I go to a book store I end up buying a book whose cover first jumped out to me. I think all of us can have a tendency to judge a book by its cover, not only when we go to the bookstore but in all of our judgments even about people.

     Today’s Gospel reminds us that it is only God Himself who should judge the life of a person. The Good news that our first reading and responsorial psalm remind us of is that our God is a merciful God. Our God does not judge a book by its cover, rather he enters into a relationship with us and anyone who knows anything about relationships know they take time to develop. Our merciful Lord who awaits us to enter into a relationship with Him gives us our entire life, until the final harvest, the final judgment, to make amends and live in a right relationship with Him.

     If we are honest with ourselves all of us will admit that we have areas in our lives that need purification. Certainly we don’t want to put off working on purifying those less than perfect things from our life because we do not know the hour when our life will end but we do know that at the end of time, at the moment of judgment, the weeds will be burned for while God is merciful he is just. Yet as long as we are seriously working on those things in our lives, and frequenting the sacrament of Confession we should not loose sleep over our imperfections, rather we should trust the mercy of the Lord and be patient knowing that He will not simply judge us by our cover but He knows our struggles and our deepest desires.

     Hearing today’s Gospel I cannot help but think of the many great saints whose lives began as sinners. I think of the life of St. Paul, who killed Christians in his early life only to be converted and become the greatest evangelizer in the history of the Church. I think of the life of St. Augustine who documents the darkness of his life in his great work The Confessions. Given ample time and grace, St. Augustine, a man who spent years in a heretical sect, had a child out of wedlock, and caused mischief just to cause trouble had a conversion of heart and become one of the greatest defenders of the faith that our Church has ever had.

     Our God is not a God of immediate results, no He is a God of relationship. The only immediate result God grants is His forgiveness when we come to Him in sorrow in the sacrament of Confession. This week we are reminded that God judges us as a friend, he wants what is best for us and judges with clemency. He is always present stretching out to us offering to help us make up for what is lacking in our lives if only we are willing to turn away from the addiction of going to our cell phones and the internet for the quick fix and turn to him. Our Lord awaits us here to help us but asks us to do so in relationship not in instant gratification.

     While we live in a world that values instant gratification today we are called today to enter into relationship with the Lord, to slowly have our hearts converted towards the greatness He intends for us. Like all relationships it takes time but the merciful Lord is their every step of the way. As much as I like immediate gratification I am grateful for the mercy of God which is expressed in the slow process of entering into relationship with us. I am grateful that the master does not kill the weeds right away, after all if the weeds were pulled immediately before the harvest wouldn’t all of us have been thrown into the fire by now?

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-mahr/smartphones-the-new-cigar_b_5530818.html

Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time Year II

Is 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 / IS 38:10, 11, 12ABCD, 16 / Mt 12: 1-8

     In today’s Gospel we hear the Pharisees trying to interpret a law about working on the Sabbath in an overly legalistic way and Jesus who is Lord and sovereign over all laws calls them to task for misapplying the law. If we listen closely to the Gospel we notice that Jesus does not attack the law itself, we never hear Him say that the Sabbath should not be a day of rest. Rather Jesus understands that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath as the Pharisees interpreted the law.

     While requiring his followers to keep the 4th commandment, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, challenges the Pharisees and us to see the Christian rule of life as a means to holiness, not a game or some hoops to jump through. If we truly give ourselves over to the Christian rule of life and strive to enter more deeply into the true spirit of those laws our relationship with the Trinity will grow immensely, but if we simply try to jump through hoops we miss an excellent opportunity to grow in holiness.

     God is not the scorekeeper who simply tallies up the number of times we have followed the rules and then if we have followed the Christian way of Life well enough invites us into heaven. No He gives us rules to lead us to a deeper relationship with Him. We are told to keep Holy the Sabbath so that we can have a day of rest and relaxation, essential components of a relationship, with our Lord. While the Pharisees, stuck in a very legalistic mindset, attack the disciples for working on the Sabbath, they fail to realize the disciples are walking with the Lord, their relationship with the Lord is being strengthened as they work. As we approach this altar why don’t we take the opportunity to briefly examine our attitude towards the Christian way of life. Let us cast aside any legalistic ideals in our mind and strive to follow the Christian way of life so as to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord. Let us ask the Lord to use His rule of life to lead us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel 2014

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Year II

7/16/2014

Is 10: 5-7, 13B-16 / PS 94:5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 14-15 / MT 11:25-27

     Today we celebrate the feast of our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Today’s Gospel reminds us that if we want to want to know God the Father, we must come to know the Son and I know of no better way to come to know the Son than through his Mother, Mary. For Carmelites, for whom today is a special feast, Mary is the one who points most clearly to Christ. Thus we today can say with the Carmelites, that if we want to come to enter into a relationship with our Heavenly Father we must turn to our Spiritual Mother and ask her to lead us to her Son who will lead us to the Father. When we deepen our relationship with our Mother we deepen our relationship with Christ and thus are invited into the love of the Trinity.

     It is because of our Mother Mary that we can say with the psalmist today “the Lord will not abandon His people.” On the Cross, immediately before His death, Our Lord gave His mother to the Church to be our Mother. Just before he passed to be seated at the right hand of the Father, our Lord left us His mother so that we would not be orphans but would have the motherly care we need to be brought to the spiritual maturity required for eternal life. Our Blessed Mother always leads us to Christ and assists us through her intercession. I think Fulton Sheen summarized the importance of a relationship with our Blessed Mother with respect to today’s Gospel best when he said Mary “is more like a magnifying glass; she intensifies our love of her son and makes our prayers more bright and burning.”[1]

     As we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel today let us turn to our Blessed Mother and ask her to lead us into an ever-deeper relationship with her Son. Let us renew our devotion to our Spiritual Mother and allow her to lead us into a deeper relationship with Her Son who will lead us to life in the Trinity.

 

[1] Sheen, Fulton. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.pg. 80.

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

IS 55:1-10 / Ps 65: 10, 11, 12-13, 14 / Rom 8: 18 – 23 / Mt 13: 1-9

     My dad loves to grow Orchids. I am grateful that he goes through all of the hard work and spends the time needed to grow these beautiful plants but I will never follow in my father’s footsteps and try to grow orchids because while I have no trouble caring for a dog or a gold fish, plants are another story and it seems like every time I try to care for a plant it dies. A little while ago as a joke some of my friends bought me a cactus telling me that I should be able to care for it but I promptly gave it away because while I’m sure I could probably care for a cactus, I won’t simply because I don’t want to have to live with the embarrassment if it does die.

     While I don’t have the skills to care for plants I am fascinated by the skill it takes and while I don’t grow plants I find myself curiously watching my dad care for his orchids. As I have watched him care for his orchids over the years I have learned that caring for plants is so much more than just planting the seed and watering the plants. Taking care of plants, as any of you who do know, takes allot of time and dedication. Watching my dad I have learned that while sunlight and water are important it seems that the soil is most important. Someone can water the plant, give it all the sunlight it needs and nurture the plant perfectly, but if the soil is bad the plant will die.

     The seed of faith has been planted in each one of us by our parents, a friend, or other people who lead us to the Church and the sacrament of baptism, but ultimately it is God Himself who using our parents or a friend first sowed the seed of faith in our life. God does not simply sow the seed of faith in our lives and then leave us alone to be sure it blossoms, no our God is a God of relationship so He sows the seed and then provides all of the nutrients we need to flourish. While God is there caring for us every step of the way, providing all that we need, we must be sure that the soil is fertile so the seed of faith can grow and take root in our lives.

     Has our soil become pathway where the seed lands and is simply swallowed up? Have we given up on our faith, or has our faith become lukewarm? Is our soil that soil which is rocky where the plant springs up but quickly fades away and dies? Do we actively engage our faith only at certain moments and then put it on the back burner at other moments. Or is our soil the fertile soil that enables the seed of faith to take root and bear much fruit.

     The first requirement of fertile soil is that it must be rich in nutrients. God Himself provides those nutrients for us primarily in the sacraments. There is not greater way to nurture the seed of faith in our life than to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass frequently. When we participate in the celebration of Holy Mass the seed of the Word of God is sowed as we listen to the readings from Sacred Scripture and then the seed of faith is nourished as we receive Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.

God provides all that we need, but we need to nurture the soil so why not take the opportunity to prayerfully read the readings for Mass ahead of time, or why not arrive at Mass a few moments early to quietly prepare ourselves. In addition to attending Mass at a minimum on Sunday would not our soil be more fertile if we took the opportunity to frequently receive the sacrament of Confession, taking time daily to pray and read sacred scripture, perhaps attend Mass sometime during the week or stop by to visit Him in the Adoration Chapel?

     God Himself, has done the sowing, He provides all that we need for that seed to grow and bear much fruit but we must be sure the soil is fertile. As we approach this altar, where we will receive Jesus Himself, let us examine our lives, see what kind of soil the seed of faith has been planted on in our lives and that ask Jesus to help us fertilize our soil to make it capable of receiving the seed of faith and the nutrients that He sows for us. As we approach to receive Jesus Himself let us make a firm commitment to do our part in fertilizing the soul in which the seed of faith has been sown.