Flowing into the Church

The other day I was on the on-ramp of the expressway trying to enter the flow of traffic while following a slow-moving car.  Honestly, some people have no idea how to get on an expressway!

It’s a strange dance we do.

Some people creep along at their own pace and surprise everyone at the last moment by fitting in.

Other people fly in quickly, and just as fast, they are gone.

Then there are those, like the guy I was following that day, who move in, find their place, but still do not pay much attention to the people around them.

The easy ones are those whose entrance is smooth, they make appropriate adjustments, and remain happily in the pack they have entered.

It reminds me of the initiation process into the church--The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults--or RCIA for short.

Like an expressway on-ramp, everyone’s entry into the church is unique. Some people pace themselves and need processing time.  Others arrive almost breathless, ready to move in quickly. Some people come but don’t really attach, and, of course, there are those who have been ready for years and find themselves at home almost immediately.

What we sometimes don’t realize is that Baptism is the true mode of entry into the Church.  Far too often we don’t understand why we need it and we remain unaware of its impact over the course of our lifetime.

Baptism isn’t something we do just because it’s a nice thing to do. We don’t do it so parents can show off their baby, dress him up cute and have a party.  Nobody thinks that, I’m sure.

Neither is it something we do because we have to.  Who would approach baptism with the idea that once it’s done they’ve fulfilled an obligation and they don’t need to come to church anymore?  Nobody does that, right?

Hopefully, those who come to baptism, or bring their children to baptism, recognize the power of the sacrament.  They probably understand that the water used in baptism is a sign of both death and life.  Death, because we leave our old selves behind, and life because we enter into a new life with God.  Blessed water, poured over the one seeking baptism, when accompanied by the Trinity in the words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” changes lives.

Do you remember the scripture passage that speaks of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 3, Verse 13)? Jesus didn’t need baptism to cleanse him from sin like we do, since he was sinless.  But, in that Trinitarian event (where the Father spoke, the Holy Spirit was revealed in the form of a Dove and Jesus was present), we learn the significance of baptism. Just being born does not make us members of the People of God.

Have you been floating along okay in life?  Maybe you don’t see any point to being baptized.  Family’s good, job’s okay, you have some fun here and there. It’s all good, right?

Well, all of those things I just described are related to what?  The here and now.  None of it--the family, fun or work--has the innate power to lead you to God after you die.  Now I don’t want to shock you, but you are going to die someday, and then what?

There is a real grace that comes with the Sacrament of Baptism and we respond to our baptismal call throughout our whole life. It is very easy for this beautiful life on earth that God has given us, to actually distract us from the reality that after we die, we are going to go somewhere.   Whether you believe it or not doesn’t change the reality.

Do you imagine that life on earth is everything?  Are you standing in stubbornness, for the most part ignoring God?  Are you trying to meet God on your own terms, in your own time?

We are not self-created. Our very existence is owed to God. He calls each of us continuously; whether we respond or not is up to us.  Most people are amazed at how wonderful it is to live this life fully awake, fully alive in God, once they make the decision to do so.

Jesus began his public ministry by demonstrating our need for baptism.   We enter into the life of the church through baptism and this leads to an increased desire to love God and become witnesses to him.  Baptism is very powerful.

If you want to learn more about baptism or entry into the Catholic Church, all you need to do is talk to your Priest, Deacon, or your parish Director of RCIA.  It is our hope that in our enthusiastic response to our own baptism, coupled with the power of God’s grace, you will find an attractive, living example that says,”Come join us!  This is great!”

Copyright 2012 Janet Cassidy