We are still in the great season of Easter when parishes welcome new members into the community through the moving rites of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. Sacrament, Word of God and Community become particularly meaningful for me during this period.
I love the rituals, the ceremonies, the prayers and the songs during the Rites of Initiation. There was a time in the past these were the best show in town. But to be stuck in them is to miss the whole meaning of these actions. Sacraments are real encounters with the person of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit He has promised us. The rites and the words only serve to connect us with the Person who called us into communion with Him. And we are initiated into that community through these sacraments.
I love the Word of God. I find solace and deep meaning in the inspiring words that I read in the Gospels. Whatever my disposition on any given day, I can find the appropriate words to inspire me in the words, stories, or parables of Jesus. But these are more than just another inspiring quote. It is encountering the Person who uttered these words, who told us these parables and who lived out these stories. In the person of Jesus, the Word of the Father became flesh and dwelt among us.
I love the Church community. In it, I find my friends and my inspirations. Through the service I contribute, I find personal meaning and fulfillment. But the Church is more than just one happy social club. It is where I truly encounter the person of Christ in the people I meet there. He has said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Sometimes, it is easy to feel His presence among us. At other times, it is difficult and well nigh impossible to see Him in our bickering, bumblings and stumbling. But through it all, His presence abides.
Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.
~ Psalm 68
While Apollos was in Corinth,
Paul traveled through the interior of the country
and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.
He said to them,
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”
They answered him,
“We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
He said, “How were you baptized?”
They replied, “With the baptism of John.”
Paul then said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance,
telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him,
that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this,
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul laid his hands on them,
the Holy Spirit came upon them,
and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Altogether there were about twelve men.
He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly
with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God.