Welcome to the LESSON 14 in our CATECHESIS CORNER. We appreciate your reading of this corner.
LET US PRAY: Spirit of the Living God, enlighten our minds to know the Truth, strengthen our hearts to accept the Truth and cause us to live for the Truth. Through this Catechesis Corner, restore those who have fallen from the Truth, convince the doubting hearts, clarify the confused mind and lead us all to the fullness of Truth through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
One of the major mistakes that many of us Christians make is to think that we shall be judged or shall make heaven solely by what we do or fail to do. We only need to search the scripture in the light of the church’s tradition to know that, that is far from the truth. If God should evaluate or judge us solely by our deeds, no one will make heaven. This explains why King David said “if you O Lord should mark our guilt, Lord, who will survive? ” Psalm 130:3. Saint John also makes it clear that, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and no truth in us” I John 1:8 and Saint Paul sums it up when he says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Rom 3:23. Bearing all these in mind, knowing no unclean things we enter heaven (Rev 21:27), and considering the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:48) we should be moved to, like the Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, ask, “Lord! who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 and we will hear Him telling us again as He said back then that “For human, this is (practically) impossible, but for God, all things are possible. Matthew 19:26. This response of our Lord Jesus Christ, shows vividly that salvation is not based on human merit but on the benevolence of God. Since our righteousness is like a filthy rags before God? Isaiah 64:5, it is clear therefore that if God will judge us strictly by those virtues we tag righteousness, still, none of us will merit heaven.
It is out of this benevolence of God that our Lord Jesus Christ therefore instituted the Sacraments, so that as much as we are weighed down by sin, we can find strength and comfort in the grace of God and can, therefore, like Saint Paul say, “when I am weak, I am strong”(2cor 12:10). What is Sacrament? The word sacrament is derived from latin word sacramentum from the word “sacro” meaning “Holy” from which the English word “sacred” is derived. This word sacrament is used by Roman soldiers as a solemn oath of allegiance. Hence, it is a ceremonial rite which shows the commitment of the soldiers to their duty and call. This word, being an outward ceremony of inward commitment and call, perfectly captures those rites that our Lord Jesus Christ preached, did and mandated as means of our salvation. This is why the church, in the penny catechism, defines Sacrament as an outward sign of inward grace instituted by Christ to confer grace on us. Because they are instituted by our Lord, when sacraments are celebrated worthily in faith, they confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them, Christ is at work in them” CCC 1127. These sacraments are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance or Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Order and Holy Matrimony.
Baptism was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ when He said to His Disciples “go therefore, and make Disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Matthew 28:19. To show how important this ceremony is, our Lord Jesus Christ said “unless a man is born from above (or born again as our other brothers prefer)he cannot see the kingdom of God”, John 3:3 When Nicodemus sought a better clarification, our Lord Jesus Christ said “unless a man is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3:5. Through this rebirth by water and Spirit, (namely Baptism) without which heaven remains impossible, our Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear to us that salvation is not a merited gift, but a pure act of God’s benevolence, by which, we who have been separated from God by Adam’s sin, can now through the grace of sonship granted in the water of Baptism, boldly call God “Our Father who at in heaven..”.( Matthew 6:9.) This is why the church in her wisdom dimmed it fit that everybody of any age who has not been baptised can receive it. Many churches claim that one should be twelve before he or she can receive baptism. Their argument is that the children have to be sure and be able to decide if they want it or not. This argument would have sounded so good if the same churches can make law that their children must be twelve so as to be able to decide whether they want to take their bath, wear their clothes, take their medicine or not. Children normally do not like to wear cloth, they prefer to walk naked and because of the bitterness of some of the medicine, they cry when they are given medicine. We give them all of these, sometimes forcefully because we know they are good for them. Why then should we wait for them to decide if they want to be children of God or not? We all should like Joshua decide on behalf of our family that “as for me and my house, we will worship the Lord” Joshua 24:15. Our Lord Jesus Christ said “let the children come to me, do not hinder them.”(Matthew 19:14) Who then are we to disobey the Lord’s instruction, and as such deny our children the grace to be children of God and members of the church?. What if, God forbid, they die before being twelve? As we would see in another article, later, infant baptism is very much biblical.
By the sacrament of Confirmation, (which is administered by laying on of hands,) the baptised are more perfectly bound to the church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. CCC1285. It is through this sacrament that we receive the Holy Spirit. Most times, for adult, baptism and confirmation are conferred on the same day because immediately our Lord Jesus Christ was baptised, He was confirmed. The Holy Spirit descended on Him in form of a dove. (Matthew 3:16) While Priests are the ordinary ministers of baptism and any member of the church, in a danger of death or delegated by Priest in a certain scenario can baptise, only Bishops, or for pastoral reason, Priests, with the permission of the Bishops, can confirm (cf canon 861 $1-2, can 882). This is because, as clearly displayed in the early Christians time, while the power to baptise is given to all the disciples, with the permission and in union with the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, only the Apostles and their successors, that is, the Bishops and those they choose to give this power to, can administer Confirmation. This explains why Peter and John were sent to Samaria to lay hands on those who had received the word of God. Note that, in this passage, we are told that the Samaritans, after accepting the word of God, were baptized but had not received the Holy spirit. Acts 8:14-17 . Who baptised them? Probably the disciples in Samaria, Why can’t those who baptised them lay hands on them? Because, since they are not Apostles, they do not have the power. The Catholic church follows this tradition till today.