This coming Saturday our grandson Noah will be baptized. This past Saturday my niece Caprice was married. Last week I participated in a Mass of Remembrance for those that died in our parish.
What do these three things have in common? They are all a celebration of new life. New Life in Christ.
It occurred to me at my niece’s wedding that with new life there is joy and excitement but there is also some uncertainty and a need for adjustment. This is true with Baptism, Marriage and death.
In Baptism we celebrate being “reborn” in Christ. But as Catholic Christians it doesn’t end with the Sacrament. It is the beginning of our life as a disciple of Christ. Noah will be presented for Baptism as an infant but his parents will bear the responsibility for his formation. The community will support their efforts in raising him as a Christian but ultimately Noah will choose to accept his faith as an adult. We will all embrace the joys and sorrows that he will encounter as we ask God to walk with him but it will be Noah’s life to live. His life’s journey is unknown at this time but our belief in Jesus’ saving grace is certain and will sustain him forever.
In marriage the Sacrament is also just the beginning. Caprice and Jimmy have witnessed their love before their community and committed themselves to Christ in their marriage ceremony. But now the “heavy lifting” begins. They have the rest of lives to affirm their love for one another. They will witness to all those who know and love them. And because they have invited Jesus into their married life they now have confidence in that sacred bond.
As Christians we believe in life after death. Again the Sacrament of the Anointing is just the beginning. It is often administered immediately before death and a Christian burial. The Sacrament signifies a beginning of our journey from death to life. As Catholics we believe in a period of purgation after our death. You can think of it as a time when “your life flashes before your eyes”. We can’t (and shouldn’t) quantify it but as humans we are inclined to try. It is enough to believe that it is a period of adjustment when we are finally able to let go of our human existence and accept eternal life with Christ. And maybe that’s the scary part. Eternity is a long time. I take comfort in knowing that God created us to love us. So life in heaven with Him can only be a good thing.
On Saturday when Noah is being held in his mother’s arms and the waters of Baptism are being poured over him I will be imagining that heaven must be like that. Being held in my Creator’s arms and having new life poured over me. What a beautiful image. And Noah will be witnessing to us what heaven can be for those who love God.