Yesterday I travelled to Dublin for the pro-life Rally which drew an attendance of 70-80,000. Here are some photos of the occasion from various vantage points.
This is today’s homily which is based on the second reading – copied at the end.
In Jan 1997 I was transferred to Brockley parish in SE London. Soon thereafter I was on for the 7.30am Mass. Like most mornings, I was not on top of my act. During Mass I looked down at the intention and saw ANNIVERSARY of (we will say) John & Mary Smith and I assumed it was a death anniversary.
I got to that point in the Eucharistic prayer when we remember the dead, so I said: “Remember John & Mary, in baptism they died with Christ, may they also share in his Resurrection.” As soon as Mass ended and I entered the sacristy, I was closely followed by a parishioner who read me the RIOT ACT: Didn’t you read the Mass intention! It was the 50th Wedding Anniversary of John & Mary Smith! They were sitting directly in front of you all during Mass!
At that point I wished that that ground would have opened and swallowed me. I ran to the back of the church to the elderly couple and gave my profound apologies which were graciously accepted. Afterwards during breakfast I reflected on what I had said: it wasn’t technically incorrect after all. We all died with Christ in baptism and we all hope to share in his resurrection(!)
Dying with Christ in baptism is a big theme of St Paul in the New Testament which we find today in the second reading. But what does it mean? It is not all that simple and we have to give it some time to think through.
Dying with Christ in baptism doesn’t mean that we all got drowned and physically died! We must instead see it in a spiritual sense. When Jesus died at 3pm on Good Friday, he was no longer responsive to the world. For example, when the soldier pierced his side with the lance, Jesus didn’t feel anything. We could say that his detachment from the physical world is comparable to his spiritual detachment from this passing world with all of its false joys, promises and its sinfulness.
When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, he lived a new type of existence even though he was still in a human body. He was able to appear and disappear at will, pass through closed doors, etc. The crowning of this new life was his return to the Father in the Ascension after 40 days.
St Paul sums up the spiritual meaning of dying with Christ in baptism and rising to new life in the Resurrection at the end of the second reading: “We should be dead to sin (and worldly living) but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Nothing in this involves physical death. Rather it is about a spiritual death to worldliness and a new purpose in living.
As cradle Catholics we can take for granted our faith vision of life – what it is to live as detached pilgrims in this world with our eyes set on our home in heaven.
During my 14.5 years in Britain, I had the privilege of bringing many converts into the Church. Most had never know the hope and faith vision of the Gospel until some sort of enlightenment happened in their lives. After Baptism, Confirmation and first Holy Communion they were like people who had fallen in love for the first time.
One of the great Catholic thinkers of the last century was GK Chesterson. When asked why he became a Catholic, he answered “So I could have my sins forgiven”. Obviously he felt the burden of his sins and experienced joy and peace in the Sacrament of Confession. He had the assurance of what Jesus conferred on the Apostles and their successors on Easter Sunday Evening: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).
In summary, to die with Christ in Baptism and live anew in his Resurrection is to be detached from worldliness and to live for God and his Kingdom.
Second Reading Romans 6: 3-4. 8-11
When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Christ, so that we too might live a new life.
You have been taught that when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
The Word of the Lord.