Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Baptism, this important sacrament we ignore - Alisonomi

I often hear people say that priestly and religious vocations are the highest forms of Christian life or the best forms of Christian vocation. Some even call them special vocations. But let me scandalize those who believe that. Priestly vocation is simply an accomplishment of a secondary sacrament.
But before I explain what I mean, let me remind us of a few facts. There are seven sacraments of the Church. They are baptism, confirmation, Eucharist (Sacraments of Initiation) penance, anointing of the sick (sacraments of healing) marriage and holy orders (sacraments of service). From what we see here they are divided into three categories which are the sacraments of initiation, sacraments of healing, and sacraments of service.
Sacraments of initiation are the sacraments that lay the foundation of every Christian life. Baptism, for example, is the sacrament that changes everything in us. Pope Francis is his message on the World Mission Day said that baptism "gives us rebirth in God’s own image and likeness, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. In this sense, baptism is truly necessary for salvation for it ensures that we are always and everywhere sons and daughters in the house of the Father, and never orphans, strangers or slaves." According to the teaching of Christ, the church is called to baptize those who believe. And those she baptizes; she sends out to proclaim the good news.
Baptism is the commencement of our life in the Church. And it is a baptism that makes us missionaries and not ordination or religious life. This is even the theme of this extraordinary month of mission: "baptized and sent". It is not ordained and sent or professed and sent but baptized and sent.
Furthermore, every other sacrament is built upon our sacrament of baptism. Confirmation is the sacrament that affirms the call we received in baptism whereas the Eucharist nourishes the faith in which we are baptized into. The sacraments of healing (penance and anointing of the sick) restore the believer to the perfect state that the baptism gives.
And the sacraments of service (ordination and matrimony) are the sacraments of service to the community in which we are baptized. These are what I call secondary sacraments. They are secondary sacraments because they are built upon the sacraments of initiation. And the sacraments of service are simply the fructification of our baptismal call.
This is why baptism is the highest form of the sacrament as it is the foundation of our Christian faith. All the other sacraments and vocations in the church are based on that, and a structure cannot supplant the foundation.
This is why when I hear some people complain about how the church is having problems because of the lack of religious vocation, I wish to remind them that it is the contrary. The problem with religious and priestly life is a result of the wrong comprehension of our baptismal life. It is the sign that we have got our ecclesiology and sacramental theology very wrong. No need saying then that the debate on viri probati, the ordination of women and importation of missionaries wouldn’t be but a discus on possible palliative measures. But that is a topic for another day.
Moreover, any church that forgets its baptismal mandate has a very serious problem and cannot but face the problems we now observe in our different churches. And even those who think they are not affected are just denying the obvious. They have not just looked well to see cancer that is quietly developing in the lungs of their ecclesiastical structure.
And thinking that one can solve the problem by saving priestly vocations or religious vocations is also an illusion. You reinforce the foundation and the structure regains its strength. And if the structure is too weak to be saved, you reconstruct it. So, we should stop thinking that the church is dying because some religious congregations or pious groups or even forms of worship are dying off. They did their time and just have to make way for other recent or older ones adapted to the need of the present-day church.
 

No comments:

Post a comment