Grace to you!
Have you witnessed the baptism of a baby? It’s one of my best moments as a priest. To contemplate the reality that a new child is born into God, or should I say, a child is deified, is thrilling. Smiles on the faces of the parents and family, plus the pure joy of that moment, elate as in spiritual levitation. Momentary ecstasy.
How about adult baptism, which in our Catholic tradition and some mainline protestant churches, takes place during the Easter Vigil? I love that too. The entire Liturgy of the Easter, plus the grace impacted, is unequalled.
You watch the minister pour the water of Baptism on the candidate while reciting: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The minister is doing what the Lord has commanded (see Matthew 28:19).
Except for adult baptism, (during which extensive preparations and teaching in faith (catechesis) are involved so the person would know the fundamentals of the New Life in Christ he or she wants to accept) baptism of children brings out vividly the gratuity of God’s grace in the soul.
Unlike seeking for the green card or citizenship of a nation other than your birthplace, during which you have to earn it and work hard for it, this one—the citizenship of heaven —is given without charge. God is gracious.
Grace, as we have earlier hinted, is unearned. Which means, we don’t get it because of our merits, but in spite of them, by the merits of Christ the Lord. Notice what happens at Baptism. By the simple ritual of the pouring of the water and the words of baptism (form of the sacrament), a new person is born. Sanctifying grace is freely granted to the person. Unbelievable.
Sanctifying grace is the grace that makes us new persons, configured into Christ. Before I reflect on its core characters for us, lets get back to the text of our reference from today’s liturgical reading, namely Matthew 9:35b-10:1, 5A, 6-8. I will focus precisely on 10:6-8.
It is the commission of the twelve: “Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost, you have received; without cost, you are to give.”
The missionary grace is given freely and we received it without charge. The Grace of being born again is freely given. The grace of spiritual growth and maturity is also freely given. Without that first belongingness to Christ, the rest of what we do as messengers of the Good News would be like a house without a foundation.
Meditate on this wonderful definition of sanctifying grace by the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification” (CCC 1999, biblical reference John 4:14; 7:38-39).
This grace makes us a new creation. The Catechism explains further by quoting this biblical text: “Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself (2 Corinthian 5:17-18).
We shall continue this discussion on sanctifying grace tomorrow. In the meantime, for this Day 7 of Advent, to what extent have we allowed what has been infused into us to mature when we were baptized into Christ?
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.