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What do you ask of the church?

First slide

The world seems a little different of late. Fear, anxiety and anger are growing in the hearts of men, women and children. Fear of losing a job, not being able to provide for the family, paying the bills and ultimately fear of death. Before COVID-19, how often did one contemplate the thought of dying? 


There are many facets to the question about death. Do you have advanced directives? Is there a will in place? Did you set people up as a beneficiary? Are you prepared to meet the Lord? I am going to focus on the last question. How do we prepare to meet the Lord?


Let us start with the first sacrament. Baptism is the first time a parent, youth or adult comes of their own free will asking to be a part of the family of God. In the rite, there is a dialogue between the church and the person asking for baptism. At some point in this process comes the question, "What do you ask of the church?" The response is the first time a parent, youth or adult declares their desire for baptism, faith and eternal life.


The church continues to probe the intent of the one presented, questioning their resolve by asking if they will take up their responsibility to practice the faith, to keep God's commandments, and to love God and neighbor. If the person consents, the church prays for the one being received and then asks, "Will you make it your constant care to practice the faith ... to see that the divine life which God gives is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always strong in his/her heart." In the rite of baptism for children, the church then asks the final question, "If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the church." Once the profession of faith is made, only then does the church proceed with baptism. The person will be cleansed in the waters of baptism and anointed.


"Baptism imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual sign, the character, which consecrates the baptized person for Christian worship" (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1280). This consecration impels us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). If we live our baptismal promises faithfully, we will be prepared to meet Our Lord when the time comes. 


Time passes after baptism. People can become distracted by the demands of everyday life and suffering to the point where the resolve they had for eternal life can be perceived as an obligation, a demand inhibiting their freedom, a mark of shame and guilt for not attending Mass or receiving the other sacraments, a faint whisper among the many competing voices. It is never too late to start over again. Ask yourself, when did my desire change? Go to confession. Find a spiritual director or a companion on the journey. Read the Gospels and focus on what Christ is doing and saying because he will show us his Father and send us his Spirit. Cultivate a devotion to Mary and the saints. Last but not least, pray for the grace of a peaceful death. 


I have had to attend many funerals in my life. The most recent funeral I attended was my grandmother's, last September. She was 99years old, she attended daily Mass and prayed several rosaries throughout the day. She often encouraged people at the nursing home to be saints. At her funeral, I was consoled when I saw the white pall for her casket. Once again, she would be robed with her baptismal garment, and when the time of purification passes, she will hear, "Welcome home, my good and faithful servant." 


Piñon is the director of faith formation and evangelization programs for diocesan Office of Faith Formation.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020