Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Amos 6:1-7; 1st Tim 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31

You know how you can get a certain tune in your head and it just keeps popping up again and again. You can even find yourselves humming it out loud at different times of the day. That happened to me this past week after I had read through the Scripture readings we have just heard. Only it wasn’t a tune that struck me; it was a particular phrase, "the noble confession." One who is a Christian makes a noble confession. It just seemed such an unusual but striking way of describing the profession of faith that’s made at Baptism and which we renew each year at the Paschal Vigil service on Holy Saturday.

The very use of the phrase, "the noble confession," reminds us that the sacrament of Baptism is an action that is both passive and active. We tend most of the time to accent the passive side. Language usage tends to assure that. Baptism is something that we receive; we are baptized and made members of the Body of Christ, the Church. But Baptism also essentially includes the noble confession, the active profession of faith in our lives. We say openly what we believe and strive to live it out in love.

It was the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s which proclaimed a much richer and broader view of the sacrament of Baptism. When I was growing up in grade school and high school baptism meant one thing—taking away the guilt of Original Sin. That was about it. The Council, however, recaptured a much richer understanding of baptism which had actually existed long ago in the early centuries of the Christian Church. Baptism unites us to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. Baptism makes us members of the People of God. Baptism gives us a share in the offices of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King.

This new attitude toward Baptism also had an impact on how the Catholic Church views other Christian Churches. Instead of an attitude of opposition there appeared a new bondedness between us because we share the same baptism in Christ. They too have made "the noble confession." The council fathers stated this new bond of connection very concisely: "For all those who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church do indeed create many obstacles.... to full ecclesiastical communion. .... But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers and sisters by the children of the Catholic Church)" (UR #3, 22)

This new bondedness was shown in several changes in our active relationships with other Christian Churches. These were detailed in the Ecumenical Directory (1993), published by the Vatican, to regulate interactions between Catholics and other Christians. I’d like to mention a few of those. Some of these you may already know and some you may not. 1) A Catholic may act as a Christian witness (not a godparent) in the baptism of a member of another Christian church. Likewise a member of another Christian community may be a Christian witness in a Catholic baptism. (#98) 2) A Catholic may act as an official witness (bridesmaid or best man) in the wedding of a member of another Christian church. Likewise such a member may witness a Catholic wedding. (#136) 3) In certain circumstances access to these sacraments (Eucharist, penance and anointing) may be permitted or even commended for Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities.(#129). 4) Catholics are allowed occasionally to attend the liturgical services of other Christian churches for a good reason, e.g. a public function, blood relationship or friendship, the desire to be better informed, etc. But they should not receive communion. (#107) All of this comes as a result of the fact that we all share in "the noble confession" of Christian faith which we have all made in the sacrament of Baptism. Let’s live it fully.

No comments: