Is your baptism really Good News?

I attended a baptism last weekend of a friend’s son, and it allowed me to appreciate the significance of this Sacrament again. It also reminded me that October 2019 is Extraordinary Mission month. The theme for this month is: ‘Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world.”

There is often a lot of talk about the eucharist, and ordination etc. in our church, and quite often the focus is on who can be included or not in these sacraments. Our common baptism, however, is what unites us because it opens membership of Christ’s Church to us and makes us sharers in his missionary mandate. Perhaps this month is a good time to reflect on that. Pope Francis offers us four ways which we can more intentionally experience this time: through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ (in his church, the sacraments, scripture and prayer); through listening to testimony that shows the universal nature of the Church; through missionary formation in the bible and catechism, and in authentic Christian spirituality and theology; and finally, by practising missionary charity.

How do we view our own baptism? Do we feel that we are full members of the Church, sent by God to evangelise and share our faith? Have we personally encountered Jesus, in the sacraments, in scripture, and in prayer? Have we allowed ourselves to be holistically formed, not just in being able to quote the catechism or scriptures, but in a spirituality and theology that sees the world as God sees it? Do we allow ourselves to listen to the testimony of others and those before us, or even offer it ourselves? But it is Pope Francis’ final point that resonated with me most.

In his Angelus this week the Pope drew attention to the moment Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 10) opened his mind and heart to the ‘creativity’ of God which extended “to all people the blessings promised to Israel” by making clean what was unclean. He concluded his address by saying: “Peter’s discernment of God’s universal saving will was the mark of a true evangeliser, who desires to share the joy of the Gospel with everyone. Peter’s example also challenges us to examine our own openness to the surprising creativity with which the Holy Spirit is even now drawing all people to salvation in the Risen Lord.”

How many of us have experienced a form of evangelisation, or the use of scripture and the catechism, that is without charity? Where there is no ‘joy of the Gospel’ but rather has at its root a desire to explain how people are to be excluded, rather than included? It made me think of how Pope Francis recently met Fr James Martin SJ, who has become famous for his outreach to LGBTI persons and their families. Fr Martin makes the point in his book Building a Bridge that “When LGBT people report that someone has told them they are not part of the church, I often say, ‘You were baptized. You have as much of a place in your church as the pope, your local bishop, or me.’”

Take time to reflect on your own baptism and how you are called to be a missionary disciple today. How open are we to receiving Good News from others? What Good news can we share with others? How do we do this with charity?

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia. @mcharlesworth
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