Monday, April 25, 2022

2nd Sunday of Easter (Gospel: John 20:19-31) Peace be with you


In December 2005 it was announced on the news that a man called Denis Donaldson, one of Sinn Féin’s top men (Sinn Féin was the political wing of the IRA), confessed to having been a British spy for the previous twenty years.  People were shocked that this could have happened. The man obviously could not live with this any longer and so he went public and confessed what he had done. He then had to go into hiding, and sadly, though not surprisingly, he was murdered four months later. God be good to him. I remember thinking at the time that he must now be living in terrible fear. Fear of being hunted down and killed. He had betrayed many and now he would be afraid of what they would do to him. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.


2000 years earlier on Holy Thursday night, out of fear the Apostles had all abandoned Jesus, who they believed was the Son of God. Judas had betrayed him for money. Peter tried to be faithful but ended up publicly swearing that he never knew Jesus. They all betrayed him. Now after Easter they are locked in the upper room, afraid. Why are they afraid? First because they could face the same punishment as Jesus since they were his associates. If you remember in St. John’s Gospel, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it says that some time later they had a dinner for him. Many people came, not only to see Jesus, but also to see Lazarus who had been raised from the dead. Wouldn’t you?! But it also says that the authorities decided it would be best to get rid of Lazarus as well as Jesus. Tie up any lose ends, as we would say. So, the Apostles had good reason to be afraid, from a human point of view.


Perhaps they were also afraid of what God might do to them. They had betrayed the Son of God. It is a very human response to be afraid of God when we feel we have betrayed him in some way, by the way we live, or by something we have done.


Then something beautiful happens. Jesus is suddenly standing with them in the room and he says: ‘Peace be with you.’ The first thing he does is to take away their fear. There are no words of condemnation for having abandoned him a few days before. There are no words of judgement, about how they were unable to be faithful. Instead: ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘It’s alright.’


I don’t know about you, but I can certainly say that I have often felt that I have betrayed Jesus and indeed sometimes wish I was not a priest, when my own sinfulness gets the better of me. And in case you think I am just trying to be holy by saying this, I am not. I am a sinner, just like anyone else. That is one thing that God has left me under no illusions about. Sometimes I think it would be better for me not to be a priest as I would not have to deal with what is sacred. I could run and hide, so to speak. Think of Peter when Jesus worked the miracle of the great catch of fish. Peter’s reaction was, ‘Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man’ and what was Jesus’ response? ‘Do not be afraid.’ Now, after the resurrection, after the betrayal, injustice, panic, when Jesus appears to the Apostles, the first thing He does is to put them at ease. ‘Peace be with you.’ 


Each time in the mass when we recall this wish of Jesus to give us his peace—which is not just a universal prayer for peace, but a reminder of what Jesus said to his followers—He is saying, ‘Do not be afraid, because I am not here to condemn you, even if you deserve to be condemned. Peace be with you.’ God only wants us to come closer to him and to know that He is not going to act as we do to each other, with frowns, or giving out. He knows what we are like. He knows that we betray him, but He still tells us to be at peace, as long as we are willing to repent. I find that very comforting.


St. Pius (Padre Pio) who had the stigmata for 50 years

Think too of Thomas, who in his grief at the death of Jesus, would not allow the words of others to convince him that Jesus was alive. When you are grieving you don’t want someone else to give you false hope, because it is too painful. And then when Jesus did appear to him, He was so kind in helping him to believe. No giving out, but instead Jesus offered Thomas to put his finger into his wounds, so that he would believe. No condemnation for not being good enough; only encouragement. That is so characteristic of how Jesus dealt with people. Always with compassion, mercy, love and encouragement.


Today is also known as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. Let me tell you one short story which to me says it all. There is a story told of a young soldier in Napoleon’s army who was tired of war and wanted to go home. He decided to desert the army, but he was caught. The punishment for desertion was death. Now this man was the only son of his mother, who was now widowed. His mother happened to work in Napoleon’s house and the day before his execution she managed to get to see Napoleon in person. She pleaded for her son and told him that he was the last thing she had in this world. The mother begged Napoleon to have mercy on the man. Napoleon said in reply, ‘He doesn’t deserve mercy’. But the mother replied to Napoleon, ‘If he did deserve it, it wouldn’t be mercy.’


Mercy is a gift. God’s mercy is a gift. We don’t deserve it, but God longs to show us his mercy and that is one of the reasons He appeared to St. Faustina and asked her to spread this devotion to his mercy, because God does not want us to live in fear, but to be assured that any effort on our part to live as He asks, is enough. We will never manage to live perfectly, but as long as we are striving to grow closer to God, that is enough. God has created us to be with him and God will do everything possible to make that happen, except force us. There is nothing we can do which God will not forgive if we ask him. That is God’s promise to us. All we have to do is reach out to him.


Peace be with you. It is I. Do not be afraid.’



Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday. 'I am the First and the Last; the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever.'


There is an extraordinary line in St. Matthew’s account of the passion. During the trial of Jesus, because there is conflicting evidence against him which is of no use to them, the High Priest eventually asks Jesus directly: I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

And Jesus answered:

 “The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:63-64).


In other words, Jesus says “Yes, I am the Son of God.” For Jesus to make a claim like that he must have been either a liar, insane, or he was telling the truth, because it is an incredible claim to make. We believe it was the truth and that is exactly who Jesus is, not just a holy man, or a prophet, but the Son of God.


In the book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, St. John the Apostle, who stood at the cross, recalls a vision he had when he was in exile near the end of his life. In the vision a man appeared to him. He says that he saw what seemed to be a man. His hair was white as wool, or snow. His eyes were like fire. His skin was like shining bronze and out of his mouth came a double-edged sword. He says that he was so afraid when he saw this that he fell down as if dead. He fainted. Then this person or being that he saw touched him and said, 

Do not be afraid.  I am the first and the last, the living one. I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld” (Rev 1:17b-18).


Who was this person? It was of course Jesus, risen from death. Not just the Jesus whose name we so often hear used carelessly as a swear word, but Jesus who is the Son of God. Now John, who had this vision, had known and lived with Jesus for at least three years, so why would Jesus appear to him in such a terrifying form? Perhaps to remind him and us of who Jesus really is, that is, the Son of God.


From a human point of view Good Friday is the ultimate sign of despair and failure. Everything falls apart and everyone is devastated. There is a terrible miscarriage of justice and Jesus, the one everyone was putting their hope in is tortured in a very savage way and killed. Even Jesus on the cross feels abandoned by the Father. He is not actually abandoned by God but that is how he feels and he cries out “My God, my God why have you abandoned me.” The ultimate suffering is to feel that we have been abandoned even by God. From a human point of view it couldn’t get any worse. 


Then we have the silence of Holy Saturday when Jesus is in the tomb. People are in shock, numb from what has happened and not sure what to do next. And then we come to Easter Sunday, the opposite of Good Friday and the ultimate symbol of hope. The unimaginable happens and rumours start to spread that Jesus is alive. ‘But that is impossible!’ many said. Most of the disciples would not believe it initially. It took them some time to be really convinced of it. From a human point of view, it is impossible and naive to think such a thing could happen, but there is more than human work here. The power of God has brought about something extraordinary which no human mind can take in. This is what God has made known to us.


A childhood friend of mine asked me to do his wedding, which I was happy to do. I asked him if he would be receiving Holy Communion, as I didn’t know if he was a practicing Catholic. He said he would like to, but he told me he didn’t believe in the resurrection. He was a pathologist (the doctors who do autopsies). He said as a scientist he couldn’t accept the resurrection. I admired his honesty. He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, but from looking at dead bodies, he knew from a human and scientific point of view that the idea of a body coming to life again after death, was impossible.


From a scientific point of view, it is impossible, but so is creating something out of nothing. If God is real and God has created the universe, why would raising someone from the dead be impossible? But that is where faith comes in. Rationally it is not possible, but for God everything is possible. Remember when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said she was to become the mother of Jesus. Then he told her that Elizabeth was already six months pregnant, ‘Because nothing is impossible for God.’ (Luke 1:37). From a human point of view the virgin birth was impossible, as was Elizabeth conceiving a child in her old age. But what does impossible mean? It means not possible from a human point of view. We tend to be quick to dismiss things as impossible, when they don’t make sense to us. In a way, that is small-minded of us. Why should something be impossible just because I don’t understand it? All of us have very limited knowledge.


Throughout the bible there are many accounts of God intervening in nature. Many of the women in the Old Testament conceived miraculously when they were either barren or well past the age of childbearing. Just because it is beyond our understanding, or logic, doesn’t mean it cannot happen.


I think there is a certain humility required with faith. We would like to think that with enough scientific development, we would be able to explain everything, but we can’t. Even science is full of contradictions.


Easter is the ultimate symbol of hope, because now the worst thing imaginable, which is death, is no longer permanent. God has opened a doorway for us to something wonderful when we die, so that we can see and be with our loved ones again. Think of the people you love who are dead. Without Easter they could not experience happiness now and neither could we when we die. So now our life has greater purpose than just what happens here and that gives us a greater hope than anything else. Now we have reason to keep going even when things are difficult. Now we are given purpose and we have a better sense of what our life is about, that is, our journey that will lead us to God if we choose to accept God and soon we will renew our Baptismal promises, which is saying yes to this. Yes I believe what God has done and yes I accept Jesus as Lord and that eternal life is only possible through him.


Do not be afraid.  I am the first and the last, the living one.  I was dead and now I am to live forever and ever and I hold the keys of death and of the underworld.”


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Holy Thursday "This is what I received from the Lord"


Tonight we celebrate a very special mass, the first mass, when Jesus took the bread and wine and told the disciples that this was his body and blood. It is also on this night the first priests were ordained: the Apostles. The Passover meal, which they were celebrating, was and is a very special meal for the Jewish people. It was the feast that remembered their being set free from slavery; their independence day. For that meal, they sacrificed an animal, a lamb or kid goat and the blood of the lamb was marked on the doors of their houses as a sign that they belonged to God, so God would protect them. That was the night of the last and most terrible plague against Pharaoh, so that he would acknowledge the power of God and let the people of Israel go free. This last plague was the plague of the death of all the first-born. The angel of death was going to pass over the houses that were marked with the blood of the lamb. The people of Israel were saved by the blood of the lamb. Then after the mass was established and Jesus’ death and resurrection took place, we are saved by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus who is the Lamb of God.


During this meal Jesus did something totally unexpected. He suddenly told them that the bread which was in his hands, was now his body, and the wine that he was holding, was his blood and that they should both eat and drink it themselves and repeat this ritual to remember him. The first mass took place.


In the second reading, which is the oldest account of the mass in writing, St. Paul says: ‘This is what I received from the Lord and in turn passed on to you…’ and then he goes on to describe the mass (1 Cor 11:23). What is interesting is the first phrase that he uses: ‘This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you…’ Jesus revealed this to him directly, after the resurrection. He didn’t get it from the Apostles, but from Jesus. We did not invent what we call the mass; the Lord Jesus himself gave it to us directly and asked us to repeat it as a way of remembering him. That is why we never change it for something else. That is why we also call it the mass and not a service. It was not just a prayer service, but something Jesus established and then commissioned the Apostles and us to ‘go out’ and bring it to the other people.


From the very first time that Jesus taught the people about receiving his body and blood, it caused division. It says in John’s Gospel that when he gave this teaching the people complained and said ‘This is too much. Who could accept this?’ and many people stopped following him after that (Jn 6:66). But he didn’t go after them and say ‘Wait, let me explain!’ He just let them go.  The only thing he did was to turn to the Apostles and ask if they were going to leave too. In other words, this is his teaching and you can take it or leave it.


The 'Priest's chair' at a mass rock, where mass had to be celebrated in secret during times of persecution

Why did Jesus give us the Eucharist? I’m sure it was for two reasons. First, because he wanted us to know that He is intimately with us always. We can receive the body and blood of Jesus into our own bodies every day if we wish. Every time we celebrate the mass, Jesus becomes present to us in the form of bread and wine. It is not just a symbol, or a reminder, but this is really and truly the body and blood of Jesus in an extraordinary way. It is beyond our understanding, but Jesus doesn’t ask us to understand it, only to believe in it.


The second reason is so that we could be present at the greatest event in history, the sacrifice of Calvary: the offering of God the Son to God the Father. That is what the mass is; the offering of God the Son to God the Father, an offering which the Father can not refuse, and that’s why the mass is so powerful. It is the perfect prayer, the perfect sacrifice which overcomes sin and wins us forgiveness. Jesus makes it possible for us to be present at this event every time we celebrate mass.


Then another crucial thing happened. Jesus got down and washed the feet of the disciples, to teach them something. I always smile when anyone is asked to come up for the washing of the feet, because if they do volunteer, you can be sure they will have carefully washed their feet, so really there is no need to wash them. But Jesus got down on his hands and knees and washed dirty, sweaty feet. It would be a bit like the Pope visiting your house and then going in and cleaning the bathroom. You would be horrified. The Apostles were horrified. Why did he do this? To show them that they were being called to a life of service. If he was prepared to serve them, they must also be prepared to serve everyone. That is what our work as priests is supposed to be about: it is meant to be one of service to the people. It is also the mindset that we are all called to have as Christians: service; looking after whoever is in need. 


Peter felt he could not allow Jesus to wash his feet, because he was a sinner. He wanted to keep Jesus at a distance because he was a sinner. This is the typical reaction of most of us. We say ‘Leave me Lord I am a sinful man.’ We don’t really believe that God could love us as we are. We are afraid to allow God to come too close. But Jesus’ answer was to say that he ‘must’ do this. In other words he was saying ‘Peter, you must not allow your unworthiness to keep me from you.’ God is well aware of what we are like and all the things that we’ve done wrong, but it doesn’t stop him from loving us and even from washing our feet. For our part we must not be afraid to allow the Lord to come close to us either. He offers himself to us, so let us never be afraid to receive him. This is also why we say the prayer before we receive Communion, ‘Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ It is God who makes it possible.


For our part we must do our best to receive the Eucharist as worthily as we can, especially by going to confession often. To rarely go to confession and then receive Communion is not right. St. Paul says, ‘For those who eat and drink without examining themselves bring condemnation on themselves’ (1 Cor 11:29). That’s why we also need to look at our life-style. If you are in a second marriage without having got an annulment, you need to put it right. This is what the Lord asks of us.


Holy Thursday was also the night when Jesus ordained the first priests. We believe that Jesus set up a male priesthood. If it was a human decision, then we could change it, but because it was revealed by God, we cannot. Celibacy was a human decision by the Church, so it can be changed, but the priesthood cannot. If you find yourself getting annoyed that it is just for men, ask yourself if Jesus knew what He was doing or not. Remember that the devil is the one who causes rebellion. Jesus called him ‘The accuser.’ He accuses us and condemns, making us question what Jesus established and telling us that we shouldn’t have to accept it. That is his arrogance and we have to be careful not to fall for it. He wants to cause division among us and make us think that these things are not from God, just like he did in the Garden of Eden.








Saturday, April 9, 2022

Passion Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 22:14-23:56) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?


Today we begin the celebration of Holy Week, a very special time when we reflect on the events that lead us through the death and resurrection of Jesus; events which changed the course of history forever. Because of these events we can now go to heaven when we die. It is that simple.


We begin with a short account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, hailed by the people as a great prophet. They threw down palm branches in front of him and shouted ‘Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Yet within a few days everything changed. He was betrayed for money, illegally tried, then tortured and killed. Today we read the full account of his passion. It is the main focus of our mass.


Even though it is a sad event that we remember, it is also a day of celebration, because what we remember is the wonderful event that made it possible for us to experience the eternal life after this one. That is so important, because if we couldn’t hope for a better life after this one, it would be very hard to keep going a lot of the time. In one of his letters to the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul wrote, ‘If our faith in Christ has been for this life only, then of all people we are the most to be pitied.’ If we think that this life is what it’s all about, we have completely missed the point. The truth is that we are preparing for something wonderful that is waiting for us, should we choose it.


Everyone suffers, as we know; there are no exceptions. Probably one of the most difficult things for any of us to experience when we are suffering, is the sense that we have been abandoned by everyone.  But even if everyone else seems to abandon us, at least we can always turn to God. But where do we turn if God disappears too? There is nowhere left to go. This is the worst kind of suffering, verging on despair. God never abandons us, but sometimes we may feel that He has.


Just before Jesus’ death on the cross, he cries out: ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ What does this mean? It is the beginning of Psalm 22 which is a Psalm that ends in victory, but it can also be understood in a different way. It seems to point out that even Jesus felt completely abandoned by the Father. He felt totally alone.


Why would God the Father hide himself from Jesus at the time when Jesus most needed to know He was there? Perhaps it was so that Jesus could experience this worst kind of suffering, the suffering of believing that you have been abandoned even by God. By experiencing this, Jesus is brought to the farthest extreme of suffering. After this there is no suffering that he has not experienced and this means that he can understand us in every kind of suffering we go through, even the feeling of being abandoned by God, because he has been there. We can no longer say, ‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ because he does.


Even though sometimes we may feel we have been abandoned by God, in fact we have not. But sometimes God allows us to go through this for reasons only known to God. It seems to be part of what forms us, even though it is very difficult and we recoil from it. Many of the saints went through this feeling of abandonment, including Mother Teresa. Here is something from her own writings to her spiritual director:


Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long  & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—...God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—‘My God’ and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.—p1.


Mother Teresa: Come be my Light, (edit.) Brian Kolodiejchuk, London: Rider Books, 2007.


That is not what you expect to hear from someone like Mother Teresa, who was such a light of hope for so many people, yet God allowed her to go through this darkness too.


One of the hardest aspects of suffering is that we can see no point to it. It just seems pointless and cruel. If we understood that it had a particular purpose, that would make it easier, but we usually don’t. But in God’s overall plan, everything we go through can serve a purpose, sometimes bringing families closer together, or helping people grow in their faith. But sometimes we will only see that later on when we look back. At the time it just seems meaningless and we often end up crying out in anger, ‘My God, why are you doing this to me?’


Another difficulty is that we feel so helpless. We cannot stop the suffering. How many people would have gladly exchanged places with someone they love who is suffering. Not being able to do anything about their loved one’s suffering is a martyrdom in itself. That is when we turn and look at the cross. It reminds us that this is also what Jesus went through; the feeling of total abandonment by God the Father, at the time when he needed him most. When you feel this way, focus on the cross. Hold a crucifix in your hands if you can and remember that Jesus went through the same suffering. That is when we ask Jesus for the grace to keep going, even though we do not understand.


Finally, I want to mention Our Lady. She also was at the foot of the cross. Years before she had been told by the angel Gabriel that Jesus would be great and would reign forever as king. He would be called Son of the Most-High God. What had happened to all these promises now, as she watched Jesus come to the end of his life before her eyes? Although Mary must have suffered terribly with all she had to witness, she didn’t give up hope. She believed that what God had said would come true and she hoped and believed even without understanding. God invites us to do the same; to hope even when we don’t understand. To trust that in the end it will make sense.


The end of Psalm 22, which begins with the cry of abandonment, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ ends with the following words:

The Lord reigns, the ruler of nations.

Before him all the prosperous of the earth will bow down,

Before him will bow all who go down to the dust.

And my soul will live for him, my children will serve him;

People will proclaim the Lord to generations still to come,

His righteousness to a people yet unborn.

These things the Lord has done. (Ps 22:28-31)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Clarification on Baptism: Who can go to heaven?


Last week I was talking about Baptism and the necessity for Baptism for salvation. I would like to clarify a few points that may not have come across clearly.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), states that:


Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (CCC 1257).


So, for those of us who have had the Gospel proclaimed to us, Baptism is necessary, since Baptism is the acceptance of the salvation that Jesus won for us, through his death and resurrection. To refuse Baptism would be to refuse to accept the salvation which God offers us.


What about those who have never heard of Christ, or know little or nothing of Christianity; those of other faiths, or even atheists? Can they also go to heaven? The Catechism states:


Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all, the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (CCC 1260)


In the fourth Eucharistic Prayer we pray, “...For those gathered here before you, your entire people and all who seek you with a sincere heart.”


In the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter was praying on the roof one day, he had a vision of something like a great sheet being let down from heaven, which was full of all kinds of birds and animals. Then he heard a voice say, “Get up Peter. Kill and eat,” (Acts 10: 11ff) to which Peter replied, “No Lord. I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The Lord replied to Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”


Peter was then called to the house of a Roman centurion, who was a Gentile. It was unlawful for Jews to associate with Gentiles. Having reflected on the meaning of the vision, however, Peter later said to the other disciples, “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”


What about children who have died without Baptism? The Catechism says:


As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. (CCC 1261)


Perhaps a good way to think of it is this: God has created us to be with him in heaven for all eternity and God will do everything to make that happen, bar forcing us. Ultimately, we have the freedom to choose or reject it.


God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (CCC 1257)

Saturday, April 2, 2022

5th Sunday of Lent (Gospel: John 8:1-11) Baptism and Confirmation



Easter is the time when many adults are baptized and become part of the Church, having completed the time of learning about the faith known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Easter is always focused on baptism and it is the most important time for baptism to take place, as the whole focus is on new life. I always find it very inspiring to see adults lined up for baptism at the Easter Vigil. It is a reminder of what we take for granted. Just a few weeks ago at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, we had the rite of acceptance, where those who are going to come in to the Church are officially accepted, and there were over 300 people there.


Why is baptism so important and what exactly does it mean?  In order to make sense of it we need to go way back to the beginning.


We believe that God created everything; the world around us that we see and the invisible world that we cannot yet see. We also believe that God’s greatest creation was the human being, male and female. It says in Genesis that the last thing God created was the human being, which is a biblical way of saying that we were the most important thing that God created. We are more like God than anything else that was created, especially because we have free will. But free will also comes at a cost.


We also believe that somewhere way back at the beginning, humanity sinned against God. There was a rejection of God and of his word, which is explained through the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we know that there was some kind of rebellion against God and we call this Original Sin. Our first parents rejected God’s plan and accepted a lie, as a result of which they lost the possibility of eternal life with God, which is heaven, or paradise.


It says in the story that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. They had lost what God originally intended for them. This was the greatest disaster, as we could not undo the damage ourselves.


Because God loves his creation He would not allow his creation to go to ruin and so, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the perfect offering was made to the Father which overcame Original Sin. The power of Original Sin was broken and we were set free, restoring to us the possibility of eternal happiness with God once more. However, because gave us the extraordinary gift of free will, God does not force this on us, but simply offers it to us. God says, ‘I have done this for you and eternal life is won for you, if you accept it, but you must choose it.’ We have to say yes to it. We have to accept this gift which God offers us and we do that by being baptized. When we are baptized we are saying, ‘Yes, I believe this and I want this. Let me have it all. Let me be soaked in it; baptized in it.’ That’s what baptism is. It is our consciously accepting what God has done for us. I accept God and I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and all that He is offering me.


At baptism we state what we believe in, just like we say the creed on Sunday, except we do it in question and answer form. The priest, or minister, asks the person being baptized, ‘Do you reject Satan and all his empty promises?... ‘Do you believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth?’ and so on. We consciously reject Satan, the one who deceived Adam and Eve, and we accept Jesus Christ as Lord. You cannot serve both, as they are opposites. We accept live with God, or we choose life apart from God. Answering the baptismal questions is really important, because we are saying to God, ‘I believe in you. I accept you. I want to receive the forgiveness you have won for me and all you have done for me.’


If we must consciously choose to be baptized, then why do we baptize infants who don’t yet have the understanding of baptism? We baptize infants because we want this grace for them from the beginning, but on condition that we will teach them their faith as they grow up. Otherwise it is hypocrisy. To baptize an infant without the intention of teaching them about their faith as they grow up, is hypocrisy and that’s why the parents and God-parents make the promises of baptism, promising to pass on the faith as best they can. If an adult comes to me for baptism, they first have to go through what we call the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, during which time they will learn about their faith. This lasts for about six months. Only when they understand it properly will they be baptized. Recently I spoke to a man who was telling me that he and his wife drove two hours each way to go to the RCIA classes so that they could be baptized. Two hours each way, for several months! That is so inspiring to me.

So, to be baptized is to say yes, I believe all that God has done for me and I want it all. Let me be soaked in it, baptized in it. That is also why we recite the Creed every Sunday. We state what it is we have chosen, similar to making the pledge of allegiance.

What about those who are never baptized, such as our brothers and sisters who are Muslim, or Hindu? Can they go to heaven too? Of course they can if they live their understanding of God as faithfully as they can, or if they have no notion of God, that they listen to their conscience. But even when they die they will see that we only go to heaven through the saving work of Jesus and they will still have to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. We understand that it is necessary for us to be baptized in order to enter life with God, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t bring it about for others who have no understanding of baptism, in a different way. But for us who understand it, baptism is necessary and that’s why it is so important. God’s power is not limited to any one way. God will speak to people of other faiths in ways that we don’t understand.

Where does confirmation fit in? Confirmation is really the other half of baptism. It is the time when we receive the gift of the Spirit to strengthen us for living the Christian life. One confirms the other; hence ‘confirmation.’ For children we wait until they are old enough to understand what confirmation is, since they were baptized when they were too young to understand it. Now that they have come of age, they must also choose. For adults, they usually receive the two together. The important thing is that these are gifts to us from God, to help us. Everything we receive from God is to help us and is given out of love for us. That is why the Apostles baptized people and then prayed with them for the gift of the Spirit, so that they were ready to live the Christian life as God commands us.


Pentecost was the Apostles confirmation, when they received the gift of the Spirit, which immediately took away their fear and they began to preach and tell people who Jesus is and that our path to God is through him.


Easter is when this new life was made possible for us and which is now offered to us and that is why Easter is all about Baptism. It is the time when paradise was restored to us and once again offered to us.  God offers it to us, but we must choose it.


Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful. 

Enkindle in them the fire of your love. 

Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created 

and you shall renew the face of the earth.