Deacon Richard Budgen's Talk given at the Series
of Pastoral Area Talks on 'The Sacraments'
THE SACRAMENTS OF INTIATION ~ DIDCOT 26 NOVEMBER
In March, a young man in his twenties
came up to me after Mass, and said he
I went to see him very week until
July when I Baptised him during Mass, and Fr Paul
In addition, because of his
journey into faith and public commitment to Jesus
and His Church, his Bolivian fiancée came back to
living out her faith.
That whole process was a
real highlight for me of my 15 years in the Ordained
Ministry, and a blessing for me too.
adult comes to faith in the Lord and His Church,
it’s a moment of celebration; not only for the
person concerned, but also for the Church as a
Also, when it’s an adult, we actually see
the Sacraments of Initiation celebrated in the right
order. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist.
children we’ve adapted it to Baptism, Eucharist
(First Communion), Confirmation.
Confirmation lead us to the Table of the Lord in the
Eucharist, which is: “The source and summit of the
whole Christian life.”
Second Vatican Council:
Lumen Gentium II: 11
That’s why, as I said just
now, it’s a celebration when someone comes to faith:
and not only for the Church on earth, but also the
Church in Heaven.
It’s as if the Saints at that
moment are jostling round the one to be initiated to
see who this person is who is joining the ‘School
For Saints’ – the Church.
And that’s what the
Church truly is, a ‘School For Saints,’ because all
of us, by our being Baptised and Confirmed, become
Saints in the making.
Eternal life is our destiny
now, and in the life beyond: “The valley of the
shadow of death.”
Ps. 23: 4
Eternal life, and
Heaven is a talk for another day perhaps.
happens when we’re Baptised and Confirmed?
take you to the foot of the Cross in the Gospel
according to John 19: 28 – 37; and begin by saying
that crucifixion was the cruellest, and most
degrading form of torture and execution reserved for
the dregs of society from which no-one survived.
Because of its very nature and, also, if the Roman
soldier supervising the crucifixion did let his
prisoner survive, his life became forfeit in the
In his Gospel, John doesn’t try to
skirt round or sanitise the event; and yet he has
Jesus reigning as King from the Cross.
what Jesus said to Pilate at His trial in John’s
“‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ ‘You
are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You
are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this
reason I was born, and for this I came into the
world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side
of truth listens to me.’” Jn. 18: 36 – 37
sure you’ve heard it said lots of times that
Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church, but I’d
like to challenge that assertion.
If we actually
listen to what the Church has taught down the
centuries, and Pope Benedict reiterates the
Tradition in his words I quoted at the beginning of
this talk that, namely on the Cross: “The water of
life flowed from Christ’s side and his saving
blood.” This brought the Church to birth.
that’s stated definitively in the Documents, Lumen
Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), and
Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred
Liturgy), of the Second Vatican Council in these
Lumen Gentium: “The Church grows visibly
through the power of God in the world. This
inauguration and this growth are both symbolized by
the blood and water which flowed from the open side
of a crucified Jesus, and are foretold in the words
of the Lord referring to His death on the Cross:
‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw
all things to myself’ (Jn. 12: 32)
Council: Lumen Gentium 1: 3
in Sacrosanctum Concilium: “God who ‘wills that all
be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1
Tim. 2:4), achieved His task principally by the
paschal mystery of His blessed passion, resurrection
from the dead, and the glorious ascension, whereby
‘dying, he destroyed our death and, rising, he
restored our life’.
For it was from the side of
Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the cross
that there came forth ‘the wondrous sacrament of the
whole Church.’” (Prayer before the second lesson for
Holy Saturday, as it was in the Roman Missal before
the restoration of Holy Week.) Second Vatican
Council: Sacrosanctum Concilium 1: 5
So, in both
documents, the Church teaches that she was born from
the side of Jesus on the Cross; and she uses the
Gospel of John to illustrate that truth.
Seven Sacraments, but Vatican II expanded our
horizons by saying that the entire Church is a
An outward, and visible sign of the
reality of the indwelling presence of Christ.
Church is also the Body of Christ, and this isn’t a
new idea. It goes right back to Paul, and most
especially in Ephesians 1: 22 – 23 where he writes
of Jesus: “God placed all things under his feet and
appointed him to be head over everything for the
church, which is his body, the fullness of him who
fills everything in every way.” Eph. 1: 22 – 23
And the Body of Christ – the Church – receives its
life from the Body of Christ on the Cross.
of course, if Jesus had remained as a dead body in a
tomb outside the city walls in Jerusalem; if He
hadn’t risen from the dead then, as Paul says: “Your
faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then
those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are
lost.” 1 Cor. 15: 17 – 18
So, whatever we have
to say about the Church, the Body of Christ, and our
being grafted into His Body through Baptism and
Confirmation, has to be said through the open
entrance of the Lord’s Empty Tomb.
constant, and consistent witness – the Tradition –
of the Church to the fact that: “He has risen!” Lk.
As we reflect this evening on Jesus as: “He
slept the sleep of death upon the cross.” Vatican
II: SC 1: 5 in John’s Gospel, we must, as I’ve just
said, always do so by looking out of the Empty Tomb.
“Why look for the living among the dead? Lk. 24: 5
Because, if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead,
Baptism and Confirmation would just be empty
gestures devoid of any means of giving us life in
all its fullness as Jesus promises to us in
10: 10: “I have come that [you] may have life, and
have it to the full.”
Now lets look at Baptism in
a little more detail; and the classic text that
describes what happens to us is in Paul’s Letter to
the Romans, Chapter 6, which I’ll read to you:
“Don't you know that all of us who were baptised
into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism
into death in order that, just as Christ was raised
from the dead through the glory of the Father, we
too may live a new life.
If we have been united
with him like this in his death, we will certainly
also be united with him in his resurrection.
we know that our old self was crucified with him so
that the body of sin might be done away with, that
we should no longer be slaves to sin - because
anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also
live with him.
For we know that since Christ was
raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no
longer has mastery over him.
The death he died,
he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives,
he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves
dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Rm.
6: 3 – 11
We die with Jesus. We go into the Tomb
with Jesus. We rise to new, and eternal life with,
and in, Jesus.
Nothing less than all of this
happens to us in Baptism through the power of the
Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Christ – just as Paul
reminds us a little further on in Romans: “But you
are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are
controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of
God living in you. (And remember that those who do
not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not
belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you,
so even though your body will die because of sin,
the Spirit gives your spirit life because you have
been made right with God.” Rm. 8: 9 – 10
it’s as well to remember that this deep, and well
thought out theology; this teaching on Baptism in
Romans 6, was written by Paul a scant 24 years after
Jesus rose from the dead.
So, even in Baptism,
the Holy Spirit is the agent of our dying, and
rising with Jesus.
And, if we go once again to
the foot of the Cross in the company of John, the
Beloved Disciple, we’ll find out why.
In John 19:
28 & 30: “Knowing that everything had now been
completed, and so that the Scripture should be
completely fulfilled [Jesus] said, ‘it is fulfilled’
and bowing his head and gave up his spirit.”
John didn’t mean that Jesus gave up His spirit with
a small ‘s.’
No, he means that Jesus gave up His
Spirit with a big ‘S.’
After the Marriage at Cana
in John 2, Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem at
the time of the Passover and finds His Father’s
House being used as a market, so He drives all of
the merchants out: “Then the Jews demanded of him,
‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your
authority to do all this?’
Jesus answered them,
‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in
three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken
forty-six years to build this temple, and you are
going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he
had spoken of was his body.
After he was raised
from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had
said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words
that Jesus had spoken.” Jn. 2: 18 – 22
Those who heard His words thought He was going to
destroy the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem that had
taken so long to build, and was still being
Jesus meant his Body, the true Temple
of the Holy Spirit.
For Jews, the Temple was
literally the centre of God’s Universe because,
screened by a curtain 60′x30′ – the same curtain
that was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died Mt.
27: 51 – was the Holy of Holies.
There dwelt the
‘Shekhinah,’ the invisible presence of God.
them, it was inconceivable that the Temple should
ever be destroyed, and the Shekhinah of God leave
And yet, in AD 70 the unthinkable happened.
The Jews revolted against the Roman occupation, and
the Roman army under its Commander, Titus, razed
Jerusalem and the Temple to the ground.
stone was left on another; and even to this day it’s
never been rebuilt.
But, for that faithful
remnant of Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah,
the Saviour; and for us Gentiles who follow Him, He
is: “Immanuel, ‘God With Us.’” Mt. 1: 23 The
Shekhinah of God.
When Jesus gave up His Spirit
on the Cross, He was breathing out the Holy Spirit –
the Shekhinah, the invisible presence of God – out
onto, and into, the Church gathered at the foot of
Mary, the Mother of Jesus; John, who
wrote the Gospel, and that small group of faithful
The Shekhinah of God was no longer
confined to a small space in the Temple, but had
been exhaled from the Body of Christ into His Body,
And not just into the Church en
masse, which indeed it has, but into each person who
yields their lives to Him through faith and Baptism.
To each one of us here this evening who have been
Baptised into Christ.
The very last commandment
Jesus gave to His Church was this: “All authority in
heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to
obey everything I have commanded you.”
18 – 20
We must do no less than obey the Lord’s
words to His Church, and each individual in it.
By being Baptised we take up the Lord’s mandate to
go, and make disciples of everyone.
We can’t be
closet Catholics, afraid to share our faith with
anyone, and everyone.
Yet when we do celebrate
the Sacrament of Baptism, we must do so with care,
and not just hand it out as if it were a bag of
sweets... It’s far too precious for that.
of couples today don’t really know why they want
their child Baptised; maybe they don’t know because
they haven’t been taught what Baptism is, and the
indelible effect it produces in a person.
they come with lots of different reasons other than
that they truly want the best for their child by
bringing them up as a Christian.
I often encounter when seeing couples is what I call
the ‘Limbo Granny Syndrome.’ Now what can I possibly
mean by that!?
Well, it’s when the parents maybe
aren’t at all sure about the need to have their
child Baptised and, therefore, wouldn’t make the
Baptismal promises with a clear conscience, or
really mean them.
But the Granny is desperate to
have the child Baptised in case they die and go to
Limbo, so she’s urging them to do it!
to rest the old chestnut about Limbo by quoting Pope
Benedict way back in 1985, whilst he was still
Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
the 1985 book-length interview, ‘The Ratzinger
Report,’ the future Pope Benedict said: “Limbo was
never a defined truth of faith. Personally - and
here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as
prefect of the congregation - I would abandon it,
since it was only a theological hypothesis.”
John Paul II held much the same view, and Pope
Benedict still does as evidenced by putting his
signature to a Vatican document in 2007 called: “The
Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being
Baptised.” International Theological Commission:
April 19 2007
Baptism is such a precious gift,
which not only gives us grace – the very life of God
within us – but also demands of us a life-long
response; so we mustn’t undertake it lightly.
just for ourselves if we approach it when we’re
grown-up; but also to remember that by having a
child Baptised, we not only give them this wonderful
gift of the grace of God: we also place on their
shoulders responsibilities for later in life.
They will be expected – and we hope and pray they do
– to take up for themselves the promises made for
them by their Parents and Godparents.
Baptise your child is not just a naming ceremony, an
excuse for a party, something Granny wants you to
It’s actually much, much more of a sacred
commitment you’re undertaking than when your baby is
conceived, and then physically born into your
Because: “Baptism is the basis of the
whole Christian life, the gateway to the life of the
Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other
sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin
and reborn as children of God; we become members of
Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made
sharers in her mission.” Catechism of the Catholic
And following on from Baptism is
Confirmation; and once again let me turn to the
Second Vatican Council and its Dogmatic Constitution
on the Church,
And this is
what it has to say about Confirmation:
Sacrament of Confirmation they [the Baptised] are
more perfectly bound to the Church and are endowed
with the special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence
they are, as true witnesses of Christ more strictly
obliged to spread the faith by word and deed.”
Vatican II: LG II: 11
At Pentecost: “Suddenly a
sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from
heaven and filled the whole house where they were
sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire
that separated and came to rest on each of them. All
of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
2: 2 – 4
Let’s remember that the ‘all’ spoken of
there doesn’t mean just the Apostles, but also Mary,
the Mother of Jesus, and all the other people in the
Cenacle, the Upper Room, in Jerusalem.
of the Holy Spirit in this particular way is for the
entire Church. All of the People of God.
Immediately, Peter and the other Apostles begin to
proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to anyone,
The Spirit is enabling the Church,
born of water and the Spirit at the foot of the
Cross, to fulfil the mandate given by Jesus just
before He Ascended:
“Go and make disciples of all
nations.” Mt. 28: 18
So, Pentecost is not the
‘Birthday of the Church,’ but its ‘Coming of Age.’
The Tradition of the Catholic Church sees the
Sacrament of Confirmation as perpetuating throughout
time, until Jesus comes again, the grace of
Pentecost in the Church.
Which means that each of
us who have been Confirmed are given the same
mandate as those the Spirit came upon, and indwelt
at the first Pentecost, to: “Go and make disciples
of all nations.” Mt. 28: 18
That’s its primary
But, in the context of those who were
Baptised as babies, it can be an opportunity,
pastorally, for them to own for themselves the
promises made for them at their Baptism.
as far as I’m aware there’s no other way for them do
to so at present in the Church.
Again, this means
we need to treat the Sacrament of Confirmation as a
precious gift, which isn’t just dispensed when
someone reaches a certain age in their teenage
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Very truly I
tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God
without being born of water and the Spirit.” Jn. 3:
So, through the Sacraments of Initiation, we’re
born again of water and the Spirit; but I just want
to emphasise the fact that to receive them – and
indeed the whole experience of being a Christian –
should be a joyful and completely fulfilling
encounter with the Lord.
Because, as Pope
Benedict said: “Our happiness depends, in the end,
on the encounter with Jesus and on friendship with
Him.” Benedict XVI: Address to Students 10 April
The German Lutheran Pastor, Dietrich
Bonhoeffer was put to death by the Nazis for his
opposition to their Godless rule.
As he left his
cell to be hanged he said: “This is the end – but
for me, the
beginning of life.”
up his whole life of being joyful, whatever his
circumstances, because he was a Christian.
this had made him embark on what was almost a
crusade to get the Christian Church as a whole to be
faithful, and true to her Lord.
He wrote in his
book, The Cost of Discipleship: “Cheap grace is the
deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today
for costly grace.”
I believe we have too easily
walked away from: “The incredible wealth of [God’s]
grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has
done for us who are united with Christ Jesus” Eph.
And instead we have gone down the road of
As Catholic Christians we have
such riches poured out upon us by the Lord in the
great Sacrament, which is His Church, and through
the seven other Sacraments He’s gifted to us.
we not sully them by the sin of treating them as
objects of ‘cheap grace’ lest we become like the
Christians of Laodicea to whom the Lord speaks these
words in the Book of Revelation:
“I know your
deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you
were either one or the other!
So, because you
are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to
spit you out of my mouth.
You say, ‘I am rich; I
have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But
you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful,
poor, blind and naked.
Those whom I love I
rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If
anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will
come in.” Rev. 3: 15 – 17, 19 – 20