Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY BAPTISM

John Young

Some Catholics wait many months before having their child baptised, simply not seeing the importance of early baptism. But in fact Catholics are obliged to have the baptism "within the first weeks". The Code of Canon Law expresses an obligation; its words are: "Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptised within the first few weeks" (canon 867.1). Let us look at why early baptism is vitally important.

Prior to baptism the baby is without the divine life of grace in its soul. While it is a child of God in a natural sense (because created and loved by Him), it is not a child of God in the supernatural sense of having been raised to a share in His own life. This happens with the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul at the moment of baptism.

Until then the infant is in a state of original sin, deprived of the grace that was lost to the whole human race by Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. Of course this is no fault of the baby, but it is a condition alien to the state God wants for the child. And the parents should desire to remedy that situation promptly.

Divine nature

If we could see directly the change in the soul on the reception of the sacrament, our wonderment would be so great that we would never delay reception. In the words of St Peter, we "have become partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). That is, the Blessed Trinity raises us, through grace, to a new level of being in which we have a kinship with the Divine Persons that would be utterly impossible by our natural powers.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, by baptism one becomes a child of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit (n. 1279). Further, "By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ". A spiritual sign called the baptismal character is impressed on the soul and remains there indelibly (n. 1280).

The marvellous inner transformation cannot be seen by bodily eyes, but is none the less real for that; and it is known with certainty by faith. No one with a realisation of this would want to delay baptism.

There is also the possibility that delay will mean that a baby might die unbaptised. Should this tragedy occur, there is no good reason to think the child will ever see God face to face in heaven. The Catechism expresses the Church's constant position: "The Church does not know of any means other than baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude" (n. 1257).

John Paul II's words to mothers who have had an abortion (Evangelium vitae, n. 99), stating that the child is now "living in the Lord", are sometimes quoted to the contrary. But those words were deleted from the official AAS text of the encyclical; and in any case they could possibly be said of limbo, which is a state of great natural happiness, with natural knowledge and love of God.

While the Church has not declared limbo to be a fact, she has declared that those who die in original sin do not go to heaven. Two Ecumenical Councils (the Second Council of Lyons and the Council of Florence) taught infallibly: "But the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin or just in original sin go down promptly to hell, to be punished however by very different punishments" (DS 858).

The word hell here means separation from the vision of God, and does not imply that those with only original sin suffer. Pope Innocent III had already taught, in a letter to the Bishop of Arles in 1201, that "The penalty for original sin is the deprivation of the sight of God ..." (DS 780).

The Council of Florence also ruled that baptism must not be delayed as long as forty days, giving as reason, "the danger of death, which can often happen" and the fact that "there is no other remedy available to these infants except the sacrament of baptism" (DS 1349).

The Catechism of the Council of Trent, in the 16th century, said: "Since infant children have no other means of salvation except baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the sacrament longer than necessity may require" (Catechism of the Council of Trent, translated by McHugh and Callan, p. 178).

Early teaching

From the early centuries the general teaching of the Fathers and theologians has been that unbaptised infants cannot be saved. In the mid-20th century, Father P. J. Hill MSC judged that "theologians after Trent [in the 16th century] up to our own days have been practically unanimous in attributing to unbaptized infants the pain of loss, and they frequently qualify this as being of faith" (P. J. Hill, The Existence of a Children's Limbo According to Post-Tridentine Theologians, p. 58). By "the pain of loss" is meant deprivation of the vision of God.

Today, it is frequently said, and sometimes by theologians, that unbaptised babies go to heaven. But the reasons they give are weak, and cannot stand against the weight of authority for the opposite position.

People who are careless about early baptism would hardly approve of a dangerous toy that might deprive a child of its temporal life. Yet they put at risk its eternal life.

John Young, B.Th is a Catholic writer who lives in Melbourne.

Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 19 No 7 (August 2006), p. 20

2 comments:

Kiran Ignatius said...

Hi,
I think the reason is that people have become complacent regarding matters of faith in general. And we baptize when it is convenient for us.

Also, the mortality rate among newborns has gradually decreased. Previously, people would hear of so-and-so's baby dying after birth and this would generate a sense of urgency. Now, since babies die less frequently, we tend to be laid back.

Michael said...

Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly, Kirnan, there is a lot more information available for one today and I imagine one can easily become sidetracked, especially in regards to religion.