Fifth Sunday of Easter
Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7
1 Peter 2:4-9
If ever there is a time to celebrate our baptism, it is the Easter season. In the beauty of our parish Easter vigil this year, with all the ritual wonder that accompanies this blessed evening, there was an 11-year-old catechumen who walked down the aisle in a brown Franciscanesque gown with bare feet and wide smile.
There was not an ounce of shyness or hesitation within the boy, but rather a faith maturity which easily rivaled most of us in the audience. When the time came for him to proclaim his profession of faith, our pastor stood before him and asked “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?” And the boy answered with clear voice into a microphone: “Yes, I do believe!” The litany of creedal beliefs proceeded while the pew sitters all stared at the boldness and certainly of the boy. Something of our own faith was awakened that night in the fire of the Paschal mysteries as the boy plunged into the baptismal waters.
He gave witness to new life in Christ!
The significance of the baptized laity within the Church rose to new heights during the Vatican Council and beyond. While acknowledging the role of priestly and religious life within the context of the Church, the role and dignity of the laity, within the plan of God, shone like a new star in the document called Lumen Gentium. The significant description of our role is clear:
“For besides intimately linking the laity to His life and His mission, He also gives them a sharing in His priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne — all these become “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) Together with the offering of the Lord’s body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.” (34)
The new emergent Church, which the Easter readings presented these past weeks, give witness to the importance of those baptized who come to ministry. In the Book of Acts, the economic needs of the Greek-speaking widows surface, challenging the Apostles to work together to find a solution. After praying and discerning together, seven Greek-speaking men (diakonia) were chosen to serve the needs of those in the community who were not being included in the common distribution of food. These were the first deacons within the Church.
So, too, the letter attributed to Peter underscores the Baptismal identity of Christian believers as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own .…”
I must confess my favorite part of the Baptismal rite is highlighted by the following prayer and anointing: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
I have always lingered upon these words, realizing that in some profound and cosmic way, we share in the ministry of Christ as priest, prophet and king. In the final discourse in John’s Gospel, that intimate dialogue Jesus has with his beloved Apostles (and with us) on the evening before his death, Jesus points to himself and declares that anyone who sees him and believes in him, sees the Father. So, to come to know Jesus more through prayer, the sacraments and study, we come to know the Father as well.
Thus, when folks ask us why do we believe in God? How do you know that Jesus lives? We can say with Peter and the others: “I know that Jesus lives, because he lives in me! I have experienced his life at the core of my being. I have discovered that He is the Way, He is the Truth. He is the Life! He will never forsake me. ”
Like the young boy baptized at the Easter Vigil, our clarity and conviction are sure to win others over.
– Think about your own Baptism during your quiet prayer.
– Recommit yourself to the graces given to you as you first shared life in Christ.
– Pray for a renewal of faith among our Baptized Catholics who have left the communities of faith.
(Matestic is a retired pastoral associate, teacher, writer and spiritual director in Milwaukee.)