2020-05-31PentecostRev. Msgr. Michael J. Motta, D.Min.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, often called the birthday of the Church. Jesus has ascended to heaven and He sends the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. They are instructed to go out into the world and preach the gospel message.

When we talk about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives, we should be thinking about the Sacrament of Confirmation. But you cannot really talk about the Sacrament of Confirmation unless you talk about the other two initiation sacraments - Baptism and Eucharist.

In the very early Church there we no infant baptisms. The apostles preached to adults. When these adults decided to learn more about Jesus Christ, they entered into the catechumenate, which is simply a big word that means that they were beginners. Many times the catechumenate lasted a life time. Minimally it lasted 3 years - 3 years of instruction. All catechumens were brought into the Church at the Easter Vigil. It was at the time they received the initiation sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In preparation for this big event, catechumens fasted and prayed for the 40 days of Lent.

Later, when the Roman Empire was converted to Christianity, people who were truly committed to Jesus Christ had their infants baptized. With infant baptism as the norm, the Church separated the initiation sacraments and people received Eucharist and Confirmation at different times during their lives. Your great grandparents or your great, great grandparents probably received their Confirmation after their First Communion. Receiving First Holy Communion at the age of 7, or the age of reason, was a practice begun by Pope Pius X at the turn of the 20th Century.

Trying to get back to our roots, the modern Church has re-established the RCIA or the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. It is the process that allows adults who have not been baptized or adults who want to become Catholic to do so. These adults are brought into the Church at the Easter Vigil after an intensive religious educational experience. It is at that time that they receive their Initiation Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing this happen, you would have to agree with me that it truly is a very inspiring event. To see adult people embrace Jesus Christ and his message makes us all re-evaluate our commitment and our relationship to the Lord, Jesus. Most of us take our Catholicism for granted.

Now what I am about to say I hope clears up some of the misunderstandings that exist in our Church today.

When it comes to the Initiation Sacraments, the Church is looking for some form of commitment to Jesus Christ. When you talk about infant baptism you are looking for the commitment from the parents. You want some assurance that they go to Church on a regular basis and will take their children to Church. If parents cannot make that promise to share the faith they profess with their children, then infant baptism should be delayed. This does not mean that the infant is being punished. Should the worst happen and the child die, I know that God would take that child into heaven. No theologians today talk about limbo. Limbo is not even mentioned in the new catechism. I am sure that unbaptized children go to heaven. But you cannot baptize children if the parents do not follow through. It makes a mockery of the sacrament. There is no magic in the sacraments. The sacraments require a commitment of faith to Jesus Christ.

Sometimes, I have suggested to 10th graders that they delay their Confirmation until they are prepared to follow Jesus Christ as mature adult disciples.

Often I have been contradicted by parents who insist that their children be confirmed. Very often these same parents do not to go Church themselves. It does not make sense. Confirmation is not a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. It is not a graduation from religious education. And you do not have to be confirmed to get married in the Church. What it is is a reaffirmation of our baptismal promise to live the life of faith.

These same principles apply to sponsors or Godparents. Godparents should be people who live the life of faith. People on fire with the love of Christ and people we can model our religious lives after.

I think of a funny incident that happened a couple of years ago. A person asked me if a Jewish friend of his could be a sponsor or a godparent for this child's baptism. I said "no." The man became indignant and replied, "Well he is a better Christian than a lot of people I know." I said in reply that he may be a better person than a lot of people you know. He may be more ethical and more kind and more generous. But he is not a better Christian. To be a Christian means that you profess your belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior - that you believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, and that you believe so much in Jesus Christ that one day you hope to follow him into heaven.

So what I am saying is - to be a Christian, or a Roman Catholic, is a way of life. There are no short-cuts. There is no magic involved. It demands a commitment to Jesus Christ. And often that commitment will put us in conflict with the world and its values.

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