#57 THE HEART OF JESUS AND THE FAMILY

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Introduction

I am almost certain that you must have seen a sticker which reads, “JESUS IS THE HEAD OF THIS FAMILY”. For a Christian, this is as true as the sun shinning in the skies. Jesus is the head and at the heart of every home. He is its source of inspiration, sustenance and happy end. This is the case of the love He has for each of us.

The Catholic Church stresses devotion to Christ, especially his heart because by taking on a human nature, He chose to have a heart that beats and loves like ours. Jesus’ heart beats for each of us with unconditional love. His heart also beats for the family because it is here that we first learn what it means to love.

Image of the Sacred Heart

The image we have of the heart of Jesus symbolizes his love. The flame and cross on it underscores his desire to rule over families and nations through love. By consecrating one’s family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we declare the family home to be under the reign of the King of Love. The family is the necessary foundation and the original source of Christian and social vitality. The family should be a coven of prayer, where love of Jesus and a life of Christian perfection are of prime importance. For this to happen, members of the family must understand their role and how this can help them cooperate with the love that we are afforded through grace in the heart of Jesus Christ.

The Catholic Family and Modern Society

You don’t need to go too far to realize that the world has declared war against the family. The increased rate of marital infidelity, teenage pregnancy, abortion, child abuse, homosexuality, materialism leading to a desperate seeking for wealth and comfort, drug and sex addiction questions the relevance of marriage for modern society. This led the first promoters of adoration of the Sacred Heart to point us back to what the family was meant to be and how society cannot be the same without a healthy and spiritually stable home.

The family is the smallest unit of society. It is here that a person learns to love, respect and cherish others as gifts of God and fellow human beings. A father’s place in the family is one of Provider, Protector and Leader. If he fails in any or all of these responsibilities, his family falls apart. Since the family is also a spiritual unit, he is also a priest, and it is his duty to foster spiritual unity through the bond of family prayer. He must present the family’s intentions, needs and aspiration to God, from whom all fatherhood both in heaven and on earth takes its name (Eph 3:15). Together with his wife, he must make the home a place of prayer and communion. There is nothing better than a father who is present to his family and their needs.

The place of the mother is that of Companion, Support and Teacher. The family cannot survive the torrent of emotional, psychological, spiritual and economic pressure with which society threatens her without the woman. With her skills and personality, she seeks to run the home and make plans both for the present and future. It is her place to support the man, care for the children and correct erroneous opinions by keeping an eye on what they do, where they go and who they keep as friends. We can safely conclude that the woman guards the home. For this too she needs the grace which God so willing gives everyone who asks Him (Rom 5:5; 2Cor 12:9).

Responsibilities of Sacred Heart Families

To dispel the spirit of Secularism: Secularism refers to the absence of religion or any expression of it in the home. Through family prayer, study of the scriptures, insistence on catechesis and participation in pious societies, this influence can be banished from the home. Most parents are complacent when it comes to matter bordering on the spiritual education of their children. If they do not receive the requisite education and are not taught to treasure their faith, they will not see it as relevant to their lives as persons. This will in turn affect their view of God, the Church, the purpose of human life and the destiny of the human person in the afterlife.

To keep safe from Modern Paganism: Paganism is the adherence to any belief other than the Christian (Catholic) faith and teaching about God. Modern Paganism is the tendency to remain comfortable as nominal Catholics while giving in to other false and misleading teachings that may sometimes contravene what we already believe and hold as part of the Christian faith. An example is an appeal to other persons other than ministers of the Church in cases that require spiritual intervention. Paganism also rares its head when we teach our children to treasure things instead of people and themselves (and their ideas of life) more than God.

Conclusion

It is the collective responsibility of parents to instill a love for purity and a practice of the Christian life in the home. This is so that our hearts and homes may be God’s shrine from which Christ’s reign and triumph will spread throughout the world. It is only in this way that the salvation Christ won for the world by his passion and death will truly be a means of redemption and spiritual transformation for each of us, for our families, our country and the whole world.

BLOGATRON

#54 LIKE SON LIKE MOTHER

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“…her offspring will crush your head and you will bite her offsprings’ heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Introduction

I mentioned earlier in this series of talks that there is a literal and spiritual meaning to the text of the Scriptures. And in many instances there are connections between the Old Testament and God’s self-revelation in Christ as presented in the New Testament. And since salvation history has often presented us with both male and female characters working together to bring about God’s redeeming work, we also see that some of the women in the Old Testament were figures pointing to Mary who is to bring the promised Messiah into the world. One of these women figures is Eve, whom the Book of Genesis describes as “the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20).

Saved by the Dame

Mary’s role in history makes no sense apart from ints context in salvation history; yet it is not incidental to God’s plan. God chose to make His redemptive act inconceivable without her. The Scriptures trace a consistent pattern from Creation through the Fall, Incarnation and Redemption, with her name woven into its rich tapestry. Mary was in God’s plan from the very beginning, chosen and foretold from the moment God created man and woman. In fact, the early Christians understood Mary and Jesus to be the reprise of God’s first creation. Saint Paul spoke of Adam as a type of Jesus (Rom 5:14) and of Jesus as the new Adam, or the “last Adam” (1Cor 15:21-22,45-49).

The early Christians considered the beginning of Genesis – with its story of creation and fall and its promise of redemption – to be christological (pointing to Christ) in its implication that they called it the Protoevangelium, or “First Gospel”. While this theme is explicit in Paul and the Church Fathers, it is implied throughout the New Testament. For example, like Adam, Jesus was tested in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46, Jn 18:1). Like Adam, Jesus was led to a “tree,” where he was stripped naked (Mt 27:31). Like Adam, He fell into the deep sleep of death, so that from His side would come forth the New Eve (Jn 19:26-35; 1Jn 5:6-8), His bride, the Church.

A similar connection can be drawn between Mary and Eve as we have done with Jesus and Adam. Eve disobeyed God and brought sin and death (Gen 3:1-6), Mary chose to be God’s handmaiden and brought Christ the author of New Life (Lk 1:38). Eve spoke to, believed and obeyed a fallen angel, the Serpent (Gen 3:4-6). Mary spoke to, believed and obeyed a good angel, Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).  Eve is the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). Mary, as the Mother of Jesus, is the mother of all the living and even of life itself (Gal 4:4; Jn 1:4, 14:6; Mt 1:16). From the earliest days of the Church, these biblical parallels were recognized as identifications of Mary as the new Eve, just as Christ is the new Adam.

From Genesis to John

The motif of the New Adam is nowhere so artfully developed as in the Gospel according to Saint John. John does not work out the ideas as a commentator would. Instead, he tells the story of Jesus Christ. Yet he begins the story by echoing the most primeval story of all: the story of creation in Genesis.

This most obvious echo comes “in the beginning.” Both books, Genesis and John’s gospel, in fact, begin with these words. The book of Genesis sets out with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). John follows closely, telling us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (Jn 1:1). In both cases, we are talking about a fresh start, a new creation.

The next echo comes soon afterward. In Genesis 1:3-5, we see that God created the light to shine in the darkness. In John 1:4-5, we see that the Word’s “life was the light of men” and it “shines in the darkness”. Genesis shows us, in the beginning, “the Spirit of God…moving over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2). John, in turn, shows us the Spirit hovering above the waters of baptism (Jn 1:32-33). At that point, we begin to see the source of the new creation recounted by John. Material creation came about when God breathed His Spirit above the waters. The renewal of creation would come with the divine life given in the waters of baptism.

Seven Days

In the first two chapters of John’s gospel, he correlates the seven days of creation in Genesis, with the first seven days of Christ’s ministry. After the prologue (Jn 1:1-18), John’s story continues “the next day” (1:29) with the encounter between Jesus and John the Baptist. “The next day” (1:35), again, comes the story of the calling of the first disciiples. “The next day” (1:43), yet again, we find Jesus’ call of two more disciples. So, taking John’s first discussion of the Messiah as the first day, we now find ourselves on the fourth day. After this John introduces his next episode in stunning fashion, the story of the wedding feast at Cana, with the words, “On the third day.” He could not mean the third day from the beginning, since he already proceeded past that point in his narrative. He was more specifically referring to the third day from the fourth day, which brings us to the seventh day – and then John stops counting days.

We cannot help but notice the similarity. John’s story of the new creation takes place in seven days, just as the creation story in Genesis is completed on the sixth day and sanctified on the seventh, when God rests from His labour. The seventh day has come to be known as the Sabbath, the day of rest, the sign of the covenant (cf. Ex 31:16-17). We can be sure, then, that whatever happens on the seventhh day in John’s narrative will be significant.

Why Woman?

It was on the seventh day that Jesus, his disciples and his mother Mary went to the wedding feast in Cana. When the wine ran out, Mary pointed out to her Son, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3) and He calls her “Woman”. We have shown how this appellation was not a way of putting someone down but a word of respect and deference. But it is also indicative of something else. Jesus could have easily called Mary “Mama”, “Mother” but he chose to call her “Woman”. He will call her “Woman” again when he hangs dying on the cross. Jesus’ use of the word represents yet another echo of Genesis. “Woman” is the name Adam gives to Eve (Gen 2:23). Jesus, then, is addressing Mary as Eve to the New Adam. This heightens the significance of the wedding feast they are attending. Some may ask: “How can Mary be His bride if she is His mother?” We must consider Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming salvation of Israel:  “You shall no more be termed Forsaken…but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land Married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices oover the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa 62:4-5). A lot is suggested in these two verses:  Mary’s virginal motherhood, her miraculous conception, and her mystical marriage to God, who is at once her Father, her Spouse and her Son.

“Woman” redefines Mary’s relationship not only with Jesus but also with all believers. Like Eve, whom Genesis calls “mother of all the living,” Mary is mother to all who have new life in baptism. At Cana, then, the New Eve radically reverses the fatal decision of the first Eve. It was woman who led the old Adam to his first evil act in the garden. It was woman who led the New Adam to His first glorious work.

Victory is Hers

The figure of Eve reappears later in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation. There, in chapter 12, we encounter “a woman clothed with the sun” who confronts “the ancient serpent, who is called the devil” (vv. 1,9). These images hark back to Genesis, where Eve faces the demonic serpent in the garden of Eden and where God curses the serpent, promising to “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed” (Gen 3:15). The images in Revelation also point to a New Eve, one who gave birth to a “male child” who would “rule all the nations” (12:5). That child could only be Jesus; and so the woman could only be His mother, Mary. In Revelation, the ancient serpent attacks the New Eve because the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 is fresh in his memory. The New Eve, however, prevails over evil, unlike her long-ago type in the garden of Eden.

God says that there will be enmity – hostility, division, opposition – between the Devil and “the woman.” In the same context we read of the seed of the woman, and the victory which will be granted through the woman and her seed. In the Bible, a man’s children and descendants are spoken of as his seed. The seed of the woman, therefore, is something unique. It refers to a child which is produced by a woman alone. This obviously refers to the virginal conception and birth from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother. The “seed” of the woman refers to Jesus Christ. The woman herein identified as having opposition or enmity with the serpent is clearly Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The woman is not Eve, who gave in to the serpent. It is Mary.

When the Saints Echo

Commenting on the passage where God foretells the defeat of the serpent, St Alphonsus Ligouri says, “Who could this woman be but Mary, who by her fair humility and holy life always conquered him and beat down his strength?” The statement “I will place enmity” and not “I place enmity…” indicates that the woman is someone else other than Eve. Some argue if the offspring referred to is the Woman (Mary) or her Son (Jesus). Ligouri adds that, “it is certain that either the Son by means of the Mother, or the Mother by means of the Son, has overcome Lucifer.” Saint Bernard remarks that “this proud spirit was beaten down and trampled under foot by this most Blessed Virgin; so that, as a slave conquered in war, he is forced always to obey the commands of this Queen. Beaten down and trampled under the feet of Mary, he endures a wretched slavery.” Saint Bruno says, “that Eve was the cause of death” by allowing herself to be overcome by the serpent. But Mary, by conquering the devil, “restored life to us.”

These saints were following a long tradition of the Church about Mary’s role in salvation history which we also see in Saint Irenaeus, the second century bishop of Lyons. For Irenaeus, this teaching about Mary fits into what he called creation’s recapitulation in Christ. Building on Saint Paul, he wrote that when Christ “became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in Himself the long history of humanity, summing up and giving us salvation in order that we might receive again in Christ Jesus what we had lost in Adam – that is the image and likeness of God”. Mary has an important place as the New Eve in this recapitulation. “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. The knot which the virgin Eve tied by her unbelief”. Elsewhere he stated, “If the former (Eve) disobeyed  God, the latter (Mary) was persuaded  to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve. We are quick to add that whatever feat Mary achieved, she did by the power of the Trinity to whom she is always united as Daughter, Spouse and Mother. We must come to her to learn how to overcome the evil one.

The Immaculate one

God says that He will put enmity or opposition between the serpent and the woman. As a result, Mary must be completely preserved from sin . For when one sins, one does not have opposition to the Devil, but rather gives in to the Devil. The only way the woman could have complete and definitive opposition to the serpent is by preservation from sin and from the sin of Adam. The fact that Mary is this “woman,” and therefore completely free from the domination of sin and the Devil, is the reason that Jesus calls Mary “woman” throughout the New Testament.

The saints once more encourage us to call upon her. Saint Albert the Great remarks that Mary seems to say, “My children fly to me; cast your eyes on me and be of good heart; for as I am your defender, victory is assured to you.” St Bernadine of Sienna adds that She is even the Queen of hell since she tames and crushes them and brings them to submission. For this reason the sacred Canticle which we call the Catena refers to Mary as “terrible as an army set in battle array”. Only by aligning ourselves with her can we win the battle against the forces of evil.

#53 LOVING MOTHERHOOD

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“…Mother behold your son, son behold your mother.” (Jn 19:26,27)

Introduction

Motherhood is a difficult idea to grapple with. This is because mothers are by nature and definition relational. They are considered mothers only in their relationship with their children. Nature keeps mother and child so close as to be almost indistinct as individuals through the first nine or so months of life. Their bodies are made for each other. During pregnancy, they share the same food, blood and oxygen. After birth, nature places the child at the mother’s breast for nourishment. The newborn’s eyes can see only far enough to make eye contact with the mother. The newborn’s ears can clearly hear the beating of the mother’s heart and the high tones of the female voice. Nature has even made a woman’s skin smoother than her husband’s, the better to nestle with the sensitive skin of a baby. The mother, body and soul, points beyond herself, to her child. Yet as close as nature keeps us to our mothers, they remain mysterious to their children. In the words of G.K. Chesterton “A thing can sometimes be too close to be seen.”

In His Majesty’s Service

As the Mother of God, Mary is the mother par excellence. So, as all mothers are elusive, she will be more so. As all mothers give of themselves, she will give even more. As all mothers point beyond themselves, Mary will to a much greater degree. A true mother, Mary considers none of her glories her own. After all, she points out, she is only doing God’s bidding: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Even when she recognizes her superior gifts, she recognizes that they are gifts: “All generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). For her part Mary’s own soul “magnifies” not herself but “the Lord” (Lk 1:46). Since Mary always deflects attention away from herself, we must look to the One she points us to in order to understand her better.

From the Top

To understand the Mother of God, we must begin with God. All Marian devotion must begin with solid theology and a firm faith based on the Creed. All that Mary does, and all that she is, flows from her relationship with God and her cooperation with His divine plan. She is His mother. She is His spouse. She is His daughter. She is His handmaid. This is the truth as shocking as it may sound.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reveals the name of God. He commands His disciples to baptise “in the name” of the Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus speaks of these as a single name. A person’s name is equivalent to their identity. God’s name reveals who God is from all eternity. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fatherhood and sonship are not earthly familial roles attributed to God. Rather, the earthly roles of father and son are living metaphors for something divine and eternal. God Himself is a communion of persons. Saint John Paul II expressed this well: “God in His deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since He has in Himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family which is love.” From eternity, God alone possesses the essential attributes of a family, and the Trinity alone possesses them in their perfection. Earthly households have these attributes but imperfectly.

Down to Earth

God’s transcendence does not leave creation completely without a clue. Creation tells us something about its creator the same way a work of art reveals something of the character of the artist. So we can learn more about God by observing what He does. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that, “God’s work reveals who He is in Himself; the mystery of His inmost being enlightens our understanding of all His works” (#236). As we pointed out in an earlier post, God reveals Himself in the pages of the New Testament (NT) but He also left “traces…in His revelation throughout the Old Testament (OT)” (CCC #237). Saint Augustine tells us that the New Testament is concealed in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. All of history was the world’s preparation for the moment when the Word was made flesh, when God became a human child in the womb of a young virgin from Nazareth.

When we read the Scriptures, we must do so on two levels at once. We read it in a literal sense  and also in a spiritual sense as we seek what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us through the words

Read Between the Lines

When we read through Scripture, we see God revealing Himself and His will to us. The Scripture is given “for our salvation” (Dei Verbum, #11). When we read the Scriptures, we must do so on two levels at once. We read it in a literal sense  and also in a spiritual sense as we seek what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us through the words (CCC #115-19). This is the way Jesus read the scriptures. He referred to Jonah (Mt 12:39), Solomon (Mt 12:42), the temple (Jn 2:19) and the bronze serpent (Jn 3:14) as “signs that prefigured Him. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus instructed his disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them what referred to Him in all the scriptures” (Lk 24:27). After this spiritual reading of the OT, we are told that the disciples’ hearts burned within them. Why did this happen? It is because God had properly laid the blocks of persons and institutions in history in such a way that they would best prepare us for the coming of Christ and the glories of His kingdom.

Type, Type, Typology

What Jesus did with the personages and events he pointed out to the disciples is what we call “types”. A type is a real person, place, thing or event in the OT that foreshadows something greater in the NT. The study of Christ’s foreshadowing in the OT is what we call “typology”. Typology unveils more than the person of Christ; it also tells us about heaven, the Church, the Apostles, the Eucharist, the places of Jesus’ birth and death and the person of Jesus’ mother.

From the first Christians we learn that the Jerusalem temple foreshadowed the heavenly dwelling of the saints in glory (2 Cor 5:1-2; Rev 12:9-22); Israel prefigures the Church (Gal 6:16); the twelve OT patriarchs prefigure the twelve New Covenant Apostles (Lk 22:30); and that the ark of the covenant was a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Rev 11:19; 12:1-6, 13-17). There are other types implicitly discussed in the NT. Many are implicit and obvious. Marian types, for instance, abound in the OT. She is prefigured in Eve, the mother of all the living; in Sarah, the wife of Abraham who conceived a child miraculously; in the queen mother of Israel’s monarch who interceded with the king on behalf of the people of the land; and in many other places in other ways. So just as the events and the persons of the OT find their fulfilment in Jesus, so too other persons associated with salvation history point to Mary His mother.

From Old to New Covenant

God fulfilled His mission of saving humanity in Christ. He established a new covenant to replace the old one He made with Israel. A covenant is a sacred kinship bond based on a solemn oath that brings someone into a family relationship with another person or tribe. God made a series of covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. They all failed because these men were unfaithful and sinful. Scriptures lead us to believe that only God keeps His covenant promises (Deut 7:9; Neh 1:5). How then could humanity fulfil their end of a covenant in a way that would last forever? This would require a man to be sinless and as constant as God. God became man in Jesus Christ, and He established the covenant by which we become part of his family: the family of God.

The new covenant in Christ’s blood (Lk 22:20) is more than mere fellowship with God. “God in His deepest mystery is a family.” God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Christians are drawn up into the life of that family. In baptism, we are identified with Christ and baptised in the Trinitarian name of God; we take on His family name, and thus become sons and daughters in the Son. We are taken up into the very life of the Trinity, where we may live in love forever.

St Alphonsus Liguori tells us that “By reconciling us with God Jesus made Himself the Father of souls in the law of grace”. And if Jesus is Father of souls, Mary is their mother, “For she, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life. And by offering the life of her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of grace.

Behold Your Mother

God’s covenant family is perfect, lacking nothing. The Church looks to God as Father, Jesus as Brother and heaven as home. What’s missing here? In truth, nothing. But every family needs a mother; only Christ could choose His own, and He chose Mary providentially for His entire covenantal family. Now everything He has He shares with us. His divine life is ours; His home is our home; His father is our Father; His brothers are our brothers; and His mother is our mother too. This is why as He hung on the cross, he looked down and saw His mother and the disciple he loved (who represents all his faithful followers) standing there. Then he gave us His parting gift, “Behold your mother” (Jn 19:26,27). St Alphonsus Liguori tells us that “By reconciling us with God Jesus made Himself the Father of souls in the law of grace”. And if Jesus is Father of souls, Mary is their mother, “For she, by giving us Jesus, gave us true life. And by offering the life of her Son on Mount Calvary for our salvation, she brought us forth to the life of grace.” The familial ties that binds Jesus and Mary made them co-sufferer in the Passion. St Augustine tells us, “The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” This makes sense when we reflect on the words of St Paul when he says, “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:16,17 New American Bible). Mary was the first to experience the pain of being united with Christ. Our incorporation into God’s household means that we share his glory only after we have experienced His passion. Jesus provides us with a model in His Mother when he says, “Behold your Mother”.

A House is not a Home

A family is incomplete without a loving mother. Scott Hahn says that the breakaway Christian churches that diminish Mary’s role inevitably end up feeling like a bachelor’s apartment: masculine to a fault; orderly but not homely; functional and productive – but with little sense of beauty and poetry. Yet all of scriptures, all the types, all creation and our deepest human needs tell us that no family should be that way – and certainly not the covenant family of God. The apostles knew this, and that is why they were gathered along with Mary in Jerusalem at Pentecost. The early generations of Christians knew that. That is why they painted her image in their catacombs and dedicated their churches to her. A true mother, she is usually portrayed pointing to her Son but looking out toward the viewers, her other children. She cared for her Son even as He has commended us to her care and she lovingly draws us together to Him.

 

#49 THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD

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Lk 3:21 “When all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape like a dove.”

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and God’s revelation of him as the “beloved Son”.  We also remember our own baptism when we became God’s beloved children.

Expectations

The people in Jesus’ time expected a Messiah. They had their ideas of who this Messiah should be and what He should do. We also have expectations as Christians. Your expectation should be in line with who you are and who God is enabling you to become. Your expectations should be consistent with what God wants for you. As His children, we should strive to be what God wants us be; to give up what does not lead to God, and all inordinate worldly ambition. Live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age (cf. Titus 2:12; Micah 6:8). Our lives should bring others closer to God.

Adoption

Who is the long-expected Messiah? It is Jesus, the beloved Son of God. What does He do? Baptise us with the Holy Spirit and Fire. Who are we? The beloved of God, His adopted children and heirs of His kingdom. The Greek word translated “adoption” is huiothesia, and it occurs only five times in the New Testament, all in the letters of St Paul (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). It means “to formally and legally declare that someone who is not one’s own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as one’s own child, including complete rights of inheritance.” In the Roman culture, the adopted son or daughter had four major changes: a change of family, a change of name, a change of home, and a change of responsibilities. “Adoption” clearly indicates that a Christian is a member of God’s family.

What are we to do? Embrace a journey of discovery about Jesus and ourselves that sets us on fire for God. All our expectations should be directed toward faithful baptismal living.

Baptismal Rite

The baptismal rite put into focus the primary gift of baptism – a share in divine life which is for us a new identity:

Water – plunged into the baptismal waters, we are plunged into Christ’s death; rising we share in divine life. Water brings both death (to our old selves) and a rebirth of life (new Life in God).

Chrism: anointed with chrism, we share in the threefold office of Christ- priest, prophet and ruler. Our anointing with chrism is a consecration of ourselves to conform our life to Christ’s.

White garment: clothed in a white garment, we are reminded of our new, holy, risen Life in Christ. We are to live unstained until we enjoy eternal Life with God.

Lighted candle: enlightened by Christ, we are also to be Light of Christ dispelling sin and darkness in the world. We ourselves are manifestations that in Christ the light of salvation has come into the world (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12).

These Symbols also imply the demands of discipleship:

  • Water: dying to self;
  • Chrism: conforming ourselves to Christ;
  • White garment: living lives worthy of who we are;
  • Lighted candle: overcoming the darkness of sin.

Primarily these symbols help us understand who we become in baptism – members of the Body of Christ sharing in divine identity.

Greater awareness and appreciation of our identity enables us to be more faithful in our discipleship.

Baptismal Living

Faithful baptismal living both fulfils expectations and generates new ones. This is why baptismal living is a journey of discovery. Baptism opens us to a Presence that continually transforms who we are and what we can do for others. Baptism offers us new Life in the Holy Spirit, one that is steadfast yet unpredictable, familiar yet surprising, restful yet energizing. Baptismal living calls us not simply to run away from sin but to realise that everything we do can be done to the glory of God (cf. 1Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Our every action can become an act of worship. Baptism sets no on fire with love for God.

Baptism and Prayer

If baptism is the flame, prayer is the wax that keeps it burning. Jesus’ first action after His baptism was to pray to the Father. Luke mentions ten different occasions when Jesus sought the solitude of prayer (Lk 3:21-23; 4:1-2; 4:14; 5:15-17; 6:12-13; 9:18-20; 9:28-29; 11:1-4,9; 22:39-46). He did this to give us an example of how God’s children should long to communicate with their heavenly Father. He also did it because, God’s will is revealed when we spend time with Him. We grow to love, trust and live for Him.

Prayer: Thank You Lord for making me your child through the waters of Baptism. Give me strength to love you and seek a deeper and more loving relationship with You.

#26 I Believe in the Communion of Saints

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Dear Doctimus Prime,

Here is something I wish to share with you ahead of All Souls Day:

We are the Church

The “communion of saints” refers to all people who have placed their hope in Christ’s resurrection and belong to him through Baptism, whether they have already pass on from this world or are still on earth. Through baptism, we are washed clean of original sin (and actual sin for those baptized as adults). Through baptism, we are also made co-heirs with Christ and members of the Church. As a Church, we are united with the Trinity, God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are established by Christ as a community of Life, Love and Truth. What this means is that we live together, we love each other and are truthful to one another. We are a Church.

Holy people

Holy, Priestly and Prophetic

Since we are united to the Trinity and to each other through Christ, we share his threefold office of Priest, Prophet and King. Like Christ, you are holy, priestly and prophetic. You are holy when you do what God would have you do for your good; the more you imitate Christ in your actions, the more you are like him in holiness. As a priest (priestess), it is your responsibility to pray for others, whether alive or dead. If they are alive, they depend on your prayers to be strengthened in good works and flee evil. If they are dead, your prayers may help them obtain the mercy of God who wants everyone to be saved (2Pt 3:8-10). God’s mercy still extends beyond the grave for those who are free from mortal sin but are still not pure enough to enjoy the beatific vision (cf. 1Jn 5:17 which speaks of sin “that does not lead to death”). You are a prophet when your life challenges others to live according to a higher moral standard; that of Christ.

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Helping Out

You are truly a member of the Church and united to Christ when you possess SANCTIFYING GRACE. Sanctifying grace is the life of the soul, it strengthens you to do things that are morally right and praiseworthy. If you possess sanctifying grace, you strengthen both yourself and the Church, since we all are connected to one another in Christ. This is why Saint Paul calls us a “Body”. We are the body of Christ and He is our head (Eph 1:22,23; Col 1:18). And whatever you do as a part of this body affect others. As Saint Paul said, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (1 Cor 12:26).

This simply means that you should always keep in mind that the Church is larger than we often admit. Among her members are the living and those who have slept in the Lord (whether they are still undergoing a process of purification or are already in the glory of God). We can help one another even beyond the grave. You can call on your patron saint (the one whose name you bear) and favourite saints but also your departed relatives and friends whom you believe are already with God. Also, by your intercessory prayer, you can come to the aid of your dearly departed who are still undergoing purification. Whatever you do or suffer in and for Christ benefits his whole body. So through your fasting, prayers and good works, but especially through the celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist), you can obtain grace for the faithful departed. These act of love will count in your favour at the end of your earthly life. Beyond being members of Christ’s body, we are members of God’s household (Eph 2:19). We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yours,

BLOGATRON

#25 Can I ask a Question…about Lust?

Dear Doctimus Prime,

Today’s entry is a rather short one. Someone asked me a question:

“Can an element of lust be found in true love?”

Here was what I had to say:

Your question is similar to asking if an element of darkness may be found in light. Your answer is a resounding “No”. But if what you consider “lust” is simply the natural attraction which one feels towards someone they love, your answer is “Yes”.

Love always seeks growth and this growth is seen in the growing attraction you feel towards someone you’re close to. Some of the people we love are family, others are friends. There is also one special person for whom love will mean marriage. It is good to set your mind right and know what you’re looking for and what you’re doing when you say you love someone. This is because, sometimes, you think you love a person but later you discover you only find them attractive. But if your attraction to them leads you to have sex (before marriage) which should ordinarily be the climax of intimate and exclusive friendship, you’ll lose them and any opportunity to develop any meaningful interaction with them afterwards.

LoveLust

The idea you must keep in mind at every point in time is: “TRUE LOVE IS IN STAGE”. Your love has to grow and at the peak of this love (in the case of a member of the opposite gender) is sex. Sex comes after you must have decided that you love this person’s background, behaviour and beliefs. Only then must you seek to make your relationship permanent through marriage. If this is not your thinking about relationship, your understanding has either been polluted or you don’t truly love the person you claim you are in love with.

Yours,

BLOGATRON

#3 Love Says it All

Love2
Dear Doctimus Prime,
I am not the kind to give in to anger easily but I am angry. I am not angry because of something that done to me. I am mad at so-called “Christians”. Some of them claim to know the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. But their lives are a stack contradiction to all they say. I recently asked a friend where he lives here in Lagos and he gave me his address. I went on to ask if there are other Church members on his street. He mentioned that there was at least one person he knows. They both belong to the same society but he is not sure where exactly he lives. I pointed out that it was not right. He should at least try to identify with this brother of his. He mentioned that he never knew he should to know where he lives. Maybe my anger is misdirected. But I know that the early Christians were known for how much they loved each other. Today, we don’t even want to know what happens outside our gates. If I am fine, the world is alright.
hold hands
It is sad because these same Christians who consider it optional to show concern or reach out to their fellows, will yell and belly ache over the insensitivity of others. I have seen Catholics leave their societies or the Church as a whole because the group he/she belongs to has failed to show them any sense of concern. It is almost a common phenomenon to find persons who are more interested in what they can receive from a person or a group. Dem wan take but dem no fit give.
Love3
Prime, the truth is that we don’t love each other. We don’t even know that we should. Jesus himself identified Love as the distinguishing feature of the Christian in John 13:34,35:


“Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciple…”

Just so that it sinks, St Paul calls the Church the “Household of God”. And a household has members who are mostly related by blood. We should be a FAMILY. It implies that just as we look out for our family members, we should look out for our fellow Christians. What usually happens is that we pass each other on the street without even looking.One of the reasons we offer each other a sign of peace at Mass is so that I see the person next to me as my brother or sister.
Love1
We are not competing against each other. It is not enough to be seen as HOLY. BE HOLY. Holiness is not a rule to be followed. It is a life to be lived. If you sow seeds of holiness, you will reap fruits in the spirit, fruits of the Spirit. St Paul gives some of them as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. Self-control is something I really need to reflect on and see if I am defaulting. There is often the tendency for me to believe that temptations are stronger than I can handle. But 1Cor 10:13 assures me that God will not let me be tempted beyond my strength. And if I am tempted, I shall receive the requisite grace sufficient to overcome. A lot of what I need to do in order to be who I was created to be is in my own hands. I have to be the BEST.
PS:
I DIDN’T FORGET WHAT I WANTED TO SAY TO YOU ABOUT MASTURBATION. I AM ONLY TRYING TO PUT MY THOUGHTS TOGETHER.I WILL LET YOU IN ON IT AS SOON AS I AM SETTLED.
Yours,
BLOGATRON.