I’m Catholic, and I’m proud of my faith and my church. But what does it mean to be Catholic? What does it tell me about my relationship with God?
The celebration of baptism includes signs that explain the richness of this sacrament and also our identity as Christian Catholics. By the pouring of water, Christ unites the baptized with him in his death and resurrection. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the baptized person, united with Christ, is a new person, son of God and member of the People of God. The priest anoints the head of the baptized person with chrism. Chrism is aromatic oil that is consecrated by the bishop and which has a rich history. In the Old Testament, chrism was used to consecrate kings, prophets and priests. This anointing signifies that the baptized person shares in the mission of Christ as king, prophet and priest.
By this union with Christ in his death and resurrection, we are holy. This holiness doesn’t depend on something that we have realized through our own efforts. Rather it is a fundamental holiness that changes who we are forever. We are sons of the Father and we carry within us the image of Jesus Christ. Even sin cannot erase this image of Christ.
The anointing with the chrism is a sign of the vocation to be king, prophet and priest. A king commands and directs. Christ calls us to direct our lives according to the values of the Kingdom of God and to help the people around us also value peace, love, justice and reconciliation.
A prophet communicates the word of God. Sharing this aspect of the mission of Christ, we try to be the light that manifests God’s love. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God depends more on our actions than on our words. Parents are prophets in their house; we are prophets to our coworkers and classmates; and we are prophets through our compassion for those in need.
We are all also baptized as priests. A priest has access to God and offers a holy sacrifice to God. Jesus Christ is the one and only priest and we are priests by our union with him. The sacrifice that we offer to the Father through Christ is our being, as St. Paul says “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) The priesthood of the baptized is the fundamental priesthood of the People of God. “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Ministerial priesthood – the priests who are the ministers in the church – exists to serve the needs of the priesthood of the baptized.
The sacrament of baptism gives us a new dignity that comes from our new relationship with Christ. He shares with us his mission as priest, prophet and king. It isn’t only a figure or a symbol, but rather a reality. It shows us what it means to be a Christian Catholic!
Fr. Dave Foxen, MSC
Some Reflection Questions:
Baptismal Font at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque Iowa - File Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License [via Wikimedia Commons]