Jesus Saves: Jesus Unites
Welcome to the fourth week of our series based on the letters of JESUS. So far we have heard about Jesus, Son of God; Jesus, our Eucharist; and Jesus, our Savior. This week we will be looking at the U in Jesus’ name. The “U” in this series stands for unite, and specifically for how we are united in Baptism.
Catholics grow up doing a lot of things that simply become habit. We don’t think twice about them. We rarely question them or try to learn why we do them. For someone who is just being introduced to Catholic practices, though, it can appear that we do some weird things.
Here is a list of Ten Weird Things Catholics Do
1. Go vegetarian on Fridays.
2. Get down on one knee before we sit in a pew.
3. Dig up bodies to see if they have decomposed.
4. Fast for an hour before receiving the Eucharist because we need to “prepare space.”
5. Transport human bones (relics) so everyone can experience them.
6. Wear ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday.
7. Say some parts of the Mass in Latin and other parts in English.
8. Eat the body and blood of Jesus.
9. Pay money to light a candle.
10. Dip our hands in a communal bowl of water as we enter a church.
Have you ever thought about the holy water at the entrance of the church? During this time of a pandemic, we don’t have them out because of the danger and risk. But blessing ourselves with holy water as we enter the church is something most Catholics have done their whole lives. If you are not Catholic, it may seem pretty weird to dip your hand in holy water and then put it on your face, but if you are Catholic and are living your faith intentionally, you know it’s a huge blessing. Holy water helps us overcome temptation and the works of the devil. The prayer used to bless holy water petitions God so that “every delusion and wickedness of the devil, and all unclean spirits, may fly and depart.” The devil flees the moment holy water touches us! Not by magic, but by the power of the Holy Spirit promised to us.
Holy water reminds us of our baptism, the moment we accepted our invitation to a relationship with God and His Church. If we were baptized as infants, our parents accepted this invitation for us and promised to raise us with an awareness of this great invitation.
Baptism is a pure gift to us from God and is not given to us because of anything that we have accomplished. Therefore, anyone, no matter how young or old, who has never been baptized, is able to come and receive the sacrament.
Think of the greatest gift you have ever been given. Maybe it was the Father’s Day gift you were given last week (if it wasn’t another tie, just kidding); the gift of Baptism far exceeds that gift and any other you can imagine.
God invites each of us into a relationship where we are known and loved. When we are baptized, we gain a family — the Church. We may think of the Church as a place we simply go on Sundays, but this definition falls short. At its depth, the Church is a people — the Body of Christ. When we are baptized, we are adopted by God, become His daughter or son, and are united to one another as sisters and brothers. No matter what our earthly family looks like, we now have an eternal family. We belong.
When we become members of the Body of Christ, we become intimately united with Jesus and one another. We call it a mystical union because it is different than any other union we can experience. The bond is greater than the bond between our biological or adopted family. It’s greater than the bond we experience with our closest friends. It’s even greater than the bond between a husband and wife. It is a union that even death cannot separate. Within the Mystical Body of Christ are the baptized on Earth, those in purgatory, and the saints in heaven. We are all united in a mystical way and will one day be fully united in heaven.
As we all know, belonging to a family is so much more than a “one and done” event. Once you are baptized, you are always baptized and will always belong to the Church. However, our relationship with Christ and our spiritual family must be maintained and nurtured. We must continue to say “yes” to the invitation to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
When each of us were baptized, we were anointed just as Jesus was as priest, prophet and king. Those are the roles that we are to carry out in our everyday life, as we follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
I think most of us have the understanding that the priest is the one who stands at the altar and through certain words and signs performs religious rights. But, all of us in our baptism share in the priesthood of Jesus. That means that when we come to the Eucharist, it isn’t just the priest who is offering the Mass, it’s all of us together. Giving of ourselves, giving our sacrifices, to God.
We are also a prophet when we share the good news of Jesus Christ with those around us by our words and by our actions. We exercise this kingly responsibility and duty by our leadership in our homes, where we work, in our community, virtually everywhere, in our attempt to make each of those a place of justice, peace and love; taking every opportunity we have to share the good news of Jesus.
In baptism, God chooses us. John quotes Jesus in the Gospel, saying: “It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you…”
Jesus chose you. He invited you and continues to invite you to be known and loved within His family. Sometimes we think we are the ones doing all of the work — we are the ones pursuing God by coming to church, praying every day, and inviting others to church. The idea that we are the ones initiating is backward, though. Jesus chooses you, invites you, and pursues you first. While we definitively accepted this invitation at our baptism, we renew our commitment every time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Every good act and inspiration, to turn toward God, is initiated by God. And it’s through that invitation we are united to God and each other. You accept His invitation every time you are inspired to pray or spend time with Him in the Sacred Scriptures. You accept His invitation when you come to Mass. You accept that invitation every time you share the Good News of Jesus Christ. When we recognize that God always initiates and extends the invitation, it should make us grateful. As our gratitude grows, we begin to realize that God is unceasingly inviting us into a relationship with Him. We never have to be isolated. If we are, it is because we are choosing to ignore the invitation from God in our life.
The Lord has given the Church the gift of Baptism to bring about our salvation, which is why it is so important for us to share this Good News with as many people as we can.
My challenge to you this week is to find out the date of your baptism, if you don’t know it, and begin to celebrate it as your rebirth as a child of God. Reminisce, and think back to your baptism. If you were baptized as an infant, ask your parent or guardian what that day was like. If your parent or guardian is no longer with us, reminisce about what they told you about your baptism. Look at pictures or mementos from that time. That day when God chose you and you became a member of the Church. Think about how you are united to Christ and His Church, asking our Lord how you can serve Him. Our world is hurting and divided. Be united with God and with one another, in love.