Third Sunday of Easter
Easter and Baptism. At the Easter Vigil I was blessed to be able to baptize 5 adults. Since then I have spoken to a few of them and have noted their remarkable joy and sense of God’s grace. One told me how he “really felt different,” “something was happening” in him. Now, not everyone experiences Baptism or the other sacraments like this; much of it depends on the openness of the person to the grace they receive. Even so, it is not an uncommon occurrence for the newly baptized (and confirmed) adults to experience the grace in this extraordinary way.
Most of us were baptized when we were only a few days or weeks old, so we have no recollection of what it’s like not to be baptized, or of the change that occurs in baptism. And so in many ways we take this amazing event and gift for granted, and we forget about all the graces it bestowed on us.
But Baptism is the greatest thing that ever happened to us. Consider what the Catechism teaches us:
“1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit…, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; …
“1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins….
“1265 Baptism … makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.
“1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification: enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues; giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
“1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ…Baptism incorporates us into the Church.
“1280 Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship.…”
In this season of Easter, let’s thank the Risen Lord for the great gift of Baptism and be open to and cooperate with the many graces that it has bestowed on us.
Sign of Peace. For the last few months the priests celebrating Sunday Masses at St. Raymond’s have omitted inviting the congregation to exchange the “sign of peace”. This was due to concerns about the dangers of passing illnesses, especially influenza, during the winter months.
On Holy Thursday, however, I reverted to my usual policy of allowing the priest to make the invitation (at his discretion). In doing so, I encourage you to remember that the exchange of the sign of peace is not meant to be a greeting to your neighbor, nor a reconciliation. It is a solemn ritual act with a profound meaning, rooted in the Lord Jesus’ sermon at the Last Supper, the first Eucharist, just hours before he died on the Cross, in which he told his apostles: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). Three days later, just hours after he rose from the dead, He returned to this theme as the very first words the Risen Lord spoke to His apostles on Easter were: “Peace be with you.” Jesus’ words are an acknowledgment and explanation of the peace He gives them through His Cross and Resurrection, a.k.a., “the Paschal Mystery.” And since the Eucharist is our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery, our encounter in the flesh with the Crucified and Risen Jesus, it is through the Eucharist that this peace comes to us. And the sign of peace is a solemn ritual sign of the Paschal peace flowing from and leading back to the Eucharist.
As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: “The early Church understood the mystery of the Eucharist as underlying the expression of “peace.” “Peace” became one of the names for the Eucharistic sacrament, for it is there that God does in fact come to meet us, that he sets us free, that…he takes us in his arms, gives himself to us…The Eucharist is peace from the Lord….In each Eucharistic assembly what happened on the evening of Easter Day was repeated for them. The Risen One came in among his disciples and spoke to them: Peace be with you…That is why the Eucharist itself was often simply referred to as “peace”: it was the place of the presence of Jesus Christ, and was thereby the sphere of a new peace.” (God is Near Us, Pope Benedict XVI, 2003).
In this context, as we return to our usual practice, I remind you of the Vatican’s instructions about the ritual, especially:
— The need for “greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction…just before the reception of Communion.”
— Liturgical law requires that the exchange be given, “in a sober manner…only to those who are nearest.”
–“If it is foreseen that it will not take place properly …or if it is not considered pedagogically wise…it can …and sometimes ought to be omitted,” at the discretion of the priest.
Fairfax County Schools and “Transgendered” Children. The Fairfax County School Board is proposing to add two words to their non-discrimination policy: “gender identity.” Among other things this means restrooms and locker rooms would be open for use by the opposite sex if the person—student, teacher, employee—merely claims to be “transgendered”: your little Suzy will be forced to go to the restroom or change in a locker room next to little Johnny wearing a dress.
A few weeks ago Stafford County Public School allowed a 9 year-old boy who dresses like a girl to use the girl’s restrooms and locker rooms. But when the other parents expressed their outrage the Stafford School Board reversed course and adopted a policy that all children use bathrooms according to their biological gender. (The confused boy is allowed to use a private staff bathroom.)
Of course bullying can never be tolerated, and true compassion must always be promoted. But ALL children need a safe and comfortable school environment, not just those who are confused about “gender.” And “true” compassion cannot be taught without teaching the truth. Common sense and the solid values of parents should govern here, not than the twisted values of a few activists and confused parents.
You can still take action by spreading the word and emailing the school board members at email@example.com. (More contact info can be found at http://www.fcps.edu/schlbd/members/bdmembers.shtml.)
Thanks to Mychele Brickner, former Fairfax County School Board Member, for the heads up on this. You can contact her (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
And of course, “pray always”!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles