I have just recently completed the module on “Are We Doing It Rite? Answers To Practical Questions About the Sacraments” by Fr. Eric Eusebio S.J. at the Ateneo Rockwell campus. His in-depth approach to the sacraments was really amazing with his background of Canon Law (Ph.D). What I really found interesting with the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation but requiring as well Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist) was the innate power they had with them. They were intended to launch a new believer into a bold life of agape, unconditional love, perfect charity, hence a life of worship. This indelible mark of Christianity and sonship blessed with the seal of the Holy Spirit were exactly what the early fathers of the Church intended to boost discipleship in its flock.
Fr. Vic Apacible, parish priest of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart says, “The best day of your life is your (sacramental baptism). You receive the promise of eternal life and become a son of God. When you are born (natural birth) into this world you are just a human.” Further to that he says that baptism connects us to our first calling, which is to be fully human. From there we move into the next stage, our next calling, towards the life of the divine, the supernatural, expressed in a life of worship, an imitation of the life of Jesus. This life of worship can be found through liturgy, prayer, receiving the teaching of our faith and brought into fruition through the witness of a holy life.
However, as experience has shown us with generations and generations of infant baptism (and for a time, confirmation at much younger ages like mine) seemed to have left a gap. Even though infant baptism has its unique advantages and important intentions what happens after looms as a concern in my point of view. Obviously an infant or a 3rd grader is not about to leap into a life of worship towards discipleship, even with the help of their adult sponsors.
But I believe that beyond the scope of Catholic schools, who do help in this aspect, are the overwhelmed parishes who are the default initiators of this important undertaking. I believe that as parishes grew bigger the necessary launch into a life of worship has fallen on the small shoulders of the parish priest. With the national average of 40,000 parishioners per priest one wonders how much can really be done toward this end. My own adult experience of the PREX (Parish Renewal Experience) also found itself wanting in pointing renewed parishioners towards ministry and sustained spiritual growth.
Now comes the question, what is the difference between a parishioner caught in this sea of concern and a BCBP member? MINISTRY, SERVICE, COMMITMENT AND FORMATION are the words I proffer. These are the big differences discovered and experienced in the BCBP Way of Life. From the Brotherhood Christian Life Program into a life of service and of seeking the Lord we have found fulfillment in the spiritual journey. In other words, I am saying that the BCBP and others in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement have bridged that gap towards discipleship.
Initiation into the church and then into ministry and service has led thousands upon thousands into finding and filling that role of discipleship in Christ. But on the downside, many of our 85 million Catholic brethren have fallen by the way side after their infant baptism and only encounter the Church during preparations for their wedding or baptism of their own children. Small wonder then why we find immorality, injustice and secularism on the rise in the most Catholic nation in Asia.
Fr. Dave Concepcion, professor at the San Jose seminary, in his Advent (which means WAITING) recollection to us in Makati BCBP, stressed that our attitude should be one of ACTIVE WAITING (making things happen) rather than that of PASSIVE WAITING (waiting for things to happen). There may be a number of ministries or even parish organizations calling for servants. But Fr. Dave says that at the heart of each service must be an expression of faith and love for the Lord, which is not just an assent of the mind or an expression of the lips but a CONVICTION OF THE HEART, with subsequent actions/service guided by such a heart.
In all our 24 years in the BCBP with my wife Mari, I believe that this conviction of the heart came about through the release of the Holy Spirit during our BCLP 11 in 1986. Ever since, we have never looked back as we put our hand to that plough despite setbacks, misunderstandings, mistakes, hurt relationships and spiritual dryness. All such things were certainly outweighed by the grace and mercy that we received from Jesus Christ. Indeed I do not hesitate to proclaim that once we were spiritually blind but now we can see. Imperfect may we still be but the greatness of His mercy encourages us to move on.
In this Christmas season, let us remember the words of Fr. Dave, “The advent that we are waiting for is no longer about God coming to us because Jesus has already come, but about OUR COMING TO GOD.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!