The Fire And Water Of Baptism
Baptism- the waters of death, life and renewal. Is there more to this sacred rite of passage than meets our eyes and moves the soul? YES!!!
It was when I first attended the training forum for the Catechumenate process that I learned an important lesson on the waters of Baptism. It would be a weeklong experience that I would never forget, and after 12 years on the RCIA team in our parish I thought I had known well the sacramental blessing that Baptism had been for many of the people I had ushered through the doors of Inquiry and past the sacraments of Initiation. This next week would be a most intense encounter with God that would fan the flames of desire, which would compel me personally, emotionally and spiritually in my relationship with God.
Of course the goal of the RCIA process is to be baptized or to renew those baptismal vows taken so many years ago, through a promise our parents made before our family of believers. Baptism is not only an aspiration when approaching the altar of God, but also a way to declare to the others in the assembly that we want to be a follower of Christ.
During the week I spent within the community, at the forum workshop, we were led through an amazing transformation that hopefully we could re-create to some extent in our parish that next season. I was attending the forum to help me to prepare for my term as the parish RCIA coordinator. No one was expecting the outcome we experienced-I learned a new kind of renewal that would spur my need to share Christ in a different way. There are no words in my vocabulary to convey this new experience we had. There was a man in attendance that revealed during the middle of the week, that he had been attending seminary before he left the church and got married. He had been bitter towards the church and her teachings for all these years. He was nearing his 25th wedding anniversary and felt a need to get back to the church and reconcile his feelings of abandonment. However he hadn’t; I could feel that he had a need to be forgiven as well as forgive. The amazing thing was that from the moment he began to speak, his reconciliation was beginning to happening before our eyes.
In the forum atmosphere we go through each step of the Catechumenate process, which takes us through the Inquiry process to the mystagogia period. We were to the point of the scrutinies when this man spoke to us about his past, we all had unique stories to tell and experience with our team member or catechumen. I was the catechumen in our pair, a very wonderful friend of mine was there, and as we became a team we began to grow even closer at that point. As the end of the week drew closer to the Easter vigil mass, our group of participants got to know each other so well that we were running between rooms to chat with the others, I had just changed hotels during midweek so I wasn’t in on that for the first 2 days. Plus, I later found out that the group thought I was a nun! What a compliment! But at the same time it was a realization of what was gradually happening to me at this event.
At last! The day we all awaited, the new fire, the light of Christ that would pierce the darkness as we processed and chanted on our way into the ballroom. The night was progressing with the scripture readings and then it was time! We would all process by the pool of baptismal waters, the water of renewal for all of us!!! What a privilege I was about to receive and become a witness to, the man who had sought forgiveness and reconciliation approached the baptismal pool; he looked at it and broke out in tears. He stood near it and before we knew what was happening he was using his arms to embrace the waters as he reached down into them, he was so near to diving in that we thought it might be a possibility!
He had become a new person in Christ that night and we were the witness to a new life! We were a part of that man’s formation as a new Christian that night and he was a part of my initiation into a new fire that was burning in my soul. I was in awe of this experience and wished that my conversion had been as manifest as his. The most amazing discovery for me was when I arrived at home I realized that I had been touched by God in a different and more subtle way. I was on fire for the Lord and wanted to share that new revival of my spirit, and do you know what? Not everyone at home is in the same plane as you are spiritually. I was consumed with the fire of desire to share this experience with everyone I met; the flame had been ignited and could be fanned through out the Church. As the fire spreads we can be a witness to “the way, the truth and the light”! Jesus taught this for a reason, light is a powerful thing, it can penetrate the darkest regions and He can penetrate the darkness that hides deep within and illuminate it.
God is all love and that is why he gave His “only” son as a sacrifice to show us the depth of His devotion to us. He actually was born into history and made an impact on all who came after Him, not too many people can say they “know” someone who lived 2000 years ago. As Christians we can say we know Christ by the Holy Spirit who will reveal Him to us in every detail; all you have to do is ask.
What was the first thing Jesus did in his public ministry? His cousin, John the Baptist-baptized him and as John said to the people around him “I baptize with water, but there is one to come after me, who will baptize you in water and the Holy Spirit”. John knew the power of Christ from the womb! He jumped for joy when his mother greeted Mary, who was with child (Jesus) at that time.
The sacrament of Baptism has been practiced since the time of Christ as a means of inviting the Holy Spirit to take up residence within us. The Holy Spirit was also present at Jesus baptism. It is at our Confirmation that we are anointed and called once more by name, to awaken the Holy Spirit in those of us who have been asleep for a long time. For those who have been using the gifts of the Holy Spirit before their confirmation it is a time to commit or better yet, consecrate your life to God. The anointing of God is real and waiting for those who want it, you only need to ask and it shall be given to you.
©Copyright2001 Vickie Shepherd All rights reserved.
No portion of this article may be used without
the express written permission of the author
©copyright 2001 eCatholic/2000
all rights reserved