Friday, January 8, 2016

Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord Year C

Readings: Is 40:1-5,9-11; Titus 2:11-14;3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16,21-22

Baptized, anointed, revealed and commissioned to give comfort to God’s people are some of words and phrases that help us to understand the Solemnity we celebrate this Sunday - the Baptism of the Lord. With today’s celebration of The Baptism of the Lord, Bishop Larry Silva has issued a “Decree of Promulgation.”  This decree explains that Bishop Larry is restoring the order of the Sacraments of Initiation to their original, historical order: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.  During the first five hundred years or so of the history of the Catholic Church, the sacraments of Christian initiation were always celebrated in the same sequence: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. It was almost always the case that all three sacraments were celebrated together at the same time, even with infants.  Following the lead of official documents of the Second Vatican Council, more and more places are restoring this original order to the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation.

Today, Bishop Silva has decided that our diocese will soon celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation in their Original Order, which is Baptism, then Confirmation, and then First Holy Communion.  Practically, this means that children in the Second Grade will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the same time they receive their First Holy Communion. Our priests, deacons, catechists, and youth ministers have already started to prepare for the transition.  It’s important to remember that, like Baptism, Confirmation celebrates God’s choice of us, not our choosing God. If the Sacrament of Confirmation gives us an increase of the Spirit we received in Baptism, and if it seals and strengthens us to grow in holiness, would it not be helpful to receive this sacrament sooner rather than later in life? Likewise, the Eucharist is both the culmination of our initiation as Christians and the weekly nourishment we need to grow into our identity as God’s children. Celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation earlier in life and in this order – Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist – makes God’s grace available just as children are beginning to question, wonder, and explore their relationship with God that began in Baptism. This transition is a wonderful opportunity for us to renew our understanding of the Sacraments of Initiation and how they form and sustain us as Christians.  But if Confirmation and First Holy Communion are received in 2nd Grade, some may wonder what we will do for our youth.  Our parishes will continue to have comprehensive youth ministries in ways that are unique to their age and situation in life, to help them understand more deeply and appreciate more fully the mystery of Christ present in their lives. What is the take away message? 1) Today Bishop Larry Silva announces a diocese-wide policy to restore the order of the Sacraments of Initiation to their original, historical order: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. 2) That means it becomes the policy of the Diocese for those who were baptized as infants to receive Confirmation before First Communion, not after. 3) Practically, this means that children in Second Grade will receive the two sacraments at the same Mass: Confirmation after the homily and First Eucharist. 4) The implementation of this policy will take place between 2018 and 2020.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

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