Renew baptismal promises & fight the good fightBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice
As I write this, we’re gearing up for the second of two weekends of the Steubenville Mid-America Youth Conferences on the campus of Missouri State University. Thousands of young adults gathered for music, sacraments, fellowship, and renewal. As a priest, time spent at these conferences is a real blessing, particularly when so many are moved to participate in Confession.
Each moment in confession is a little moment of conversion, where a person is deepening his or her “yes” to the Lord.
When you and I say “yes” to Christ, suddenly there are other things that just can’t be in our lives anymore. That’s the challenge, because sin is enticing. We can’t fool ourselves about that: Sin is attractive. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t fall so easily into sin, and we priests wouldn’t hear so many confessions.
When we say “yes” to Christ, we’re really saying “no” to a lot of other things. One of my favorite prayers is found in the missal: Reject whatever is contrary to Christ.
Life & faith
Recently, Pope Francis named new cardinals in the Church. One of them was asked by a newspaper reporter, “What’s the biggest challenge facing the Church in the United States today? What’s the biggest difficulty?”
The cardinal said that the biggest challenge in the Church today is closing the gap between life and faith, closing the gap between what we say we believe—faith—and how we actually live our lives—what we say and what we do.
Faith becomes real when that gap is closed. When it isn’t closed, we become fractured people, trying to behave one way at work, one way at school, one way at church, one way with your spouse, one way with your family, etc. When we say “yes” to Jesus, we close the gap between our “life” and faith. That’s not easy.
We close the gap when we go to Confession. We tell the Lord, “I’m going to reject whatever is contrary to you.” In Confession, we empty ourselves of the sinfulness that’s not going to be a part of our life anymore. Saying yes to Christ means we have to say no to other things. That’s not very popular in our culture. But, if you’re going to be a follower of Christ, your “yes” must invade every fiber of your being.
Reject whatever is contrary to Christ. And in so doing, it should change our behavior; it should change our language. It should change what we search for on a computer. It should change how we relate to a co-worker, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or a spouse. It should change how we talk to our family, and how we relate to the world and its people.
There are three divisions in the Church: the Church Triumphant in heaven, those saints and all of our loved ones who have gone before us. That’s the Church Triumphant. That’s not us. We’re not in heaven.
Then there’s the Church Suffering, those that need our prayers: They’re being purified so that one day they will be the Church in heaven triumphant. We’re not there yet either because we’re still here on earth. What are we? We are the Church Militant, the Church that’s in battle. We are the Church that is fighting the good fight on earth, and listen, believe me when I tell you, there is a battle going on, and it’s for each one of our souls.
Next time we’re tempted, think about being the Church Militant. What will you do? Because it’s in temptation that the battle is really played out.
We’re not let alone to face the battle. The Lord doesn’t say to us, “be holy,” and then not give us the ability and grace to do so: The sacraments, staying close to the Eucharist; the Blessed Mother, the rosary, going to confession, serving our neighbor with contrite hearts.
I encourage you to fight the good fight, reject the things that are contrary to the Gospel, and don’t end until it’s over. Say yes to Christ.
Every Easter, new people come into the Church, and during this big, glorious celebration, every parishioner renews his or her own baptismal promises. Why? Because sometimes we get tired of the battle. Sometimes we need to be renewed in the struggle. Sometimes we need a glass of water while we’re running the good race toward the prize of Christ. So year, after year, after year, we renew our baptismal promises at Easter to remind us who and what we are: claimed for Christ.
In our baptism, each one of us had the cross of Christ traced on our forehead. As a priest, I love that moment, and the beautiful prayer that goes with it: “I claim you for Christ by the sign of His cross.” At baptism, even before we pour the water and invoke the Trinity, we are claimed for Christ by the cross.
The cross identifies us as Roman Catholics. It’s who we are. Each one of us walks around with an invisible cross on our forehead. Take a moment this week and really recommit yourself to Christ. In the beautiful moments of the consecration of the Mass, renew your yes. Renounce Satan, and everything he stands for, all of his empty show. Express your belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Peace be with you. The Lord is with you. May almighty God bless you: the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit.