Confirmation Makes us Stewards of the Gospel

The Sacrament of Confirmation prepares the baptized to take on the role of missionary disciples – stewards of the gospel. With the reception of this sacrament, we are as it were commissioned to take up active ministry in the life of the Church. Confirmation should therefore prepare the candidates to encounter Jesus Christ profoundly so that they become more dynamic witnesses of the good news of Jesus Christ. Part of that good news is God’s incredible mercy and compassion which is greater than the total sum of our sins. The journey of stewards of the gospel has never been easy as St. Paul reminds us. “Let no one look down on you because of your youth, but be a continuing example of love, faith and purity to believers.” I Timothy 4:12

St. John Paul II had very inspiring words for the youth at the 1993 Denver World Young Gathering. “Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16,11)… Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life! Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering.”

The pope went on to say, “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cfr. Rm 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cfr. Mt 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" ( Mt 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father” (John Paul II, Address, World Youth Day, Denver, August 15, 1993).

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Sacrament of Confirmation

“I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. (Mark 1:8)

The New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit was with Christ to bringing the Messiah’s mission to fulfillment.  On receiving the baptism of John, Jesus saw the Spirit descend on him (see Mk 1:10), and remain with him. He was led by the Spirit to undertake his public ministry as the Messiah, relying on the Spirit’s presence and assistance.He later promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would help them to bear fearless witness to their faith, even before persecutors (see Lk 4:17-21).

By the Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are strengthened by the gifts of Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of Confirmation is administered by the laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism accompanied by the prayer: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop or a priest delegated by him administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed.

In the Sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and sustain us in fulfilling our calling. We receive seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and the fear of the Lord. Confirmation deepens our baptismal life which calls us to be missionary disciples of Jesus Christ in our families, neighborhoods, society, and the world. Our faith life is deepened and becomes more intense with greater emphasis given to the person of Jesus Christ, who has become our Lord and Savior.

By:  Monsignor John S. Mbinda

First Holy Communion

“Let the little children come to me.” (Mt. 19:14) In the bulletin of last Sunday, we gave a brief overview of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. That leads to the present article on First Holy Communion. As Catholics, we know that the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Pope Francis has called it the “Sacrament of Love”:

 

“The Eucharist is at the heart of ‘Christian initiation’, together with Baptism and Confirmation, and it constitutes the source of the Church’s life itself. From this Sacrament of love, in fact, flows every authentic journey of faith, of communion, and of witness.” (Pope Francis, General Audience, February 5, 2014)

 

In the revised order of the Sacraments of Initiation, children who have reached the age of reason (7 years) will be prepared to receive their First Holy Communion at the same Mass they receive their Confirmation. Obviously, this will be preceded by preparation for their First Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Apart from the catechesis for these sacraments, much administrative work by the RE Team is implied.

 

What makes the First Holy Communion so special the first time is the same thing that makes it special every time! Jesus comes to us in a unique way in the Holy Eucharist. When He comes, we receive Him into our body and our soul. This is very beautiful, personal, and intimate. We should not take it for granted! This is why the first time a family member makes their Holy Communion, it is and exciting event for the whole family. The boy or girl preparing for this sacrament is going to be profoundly united with Jesus in a way that they never have before!

 

We should also make it special for our children. It is usually a tradition that children receiving First Holy Communion wear special garments. The girls often wear white dress and veils, and boys wear white shirts with ties. The color white symbolically points to the white garment they wore on the day of their baptism. It is also a sign of purity as the children come forward to receive, for the first time, the Body and Blood of Christ.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

The Sacrament of the Eucharist

The Second Vatican Council Document on the Church, describes the Holy Eucharist as "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen gentium, # 11; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324). This means that the Eucharist is central to Catholic faith and practice. The Holy Eucharist is the sacrament, instituted by Christ, who is really present in the Holy Eucharist, even when not being received. It is therefore to be honored and adored. The whole Christ is present in either kind and is received by the communicant. We believe that the substance of bread and wine are truly changed into the flesh and blood of Christ by the priest in the words of consecration, so that only the appearance of bread and wine remains. The sacrament effects union with Christ; it nourishes us and increases grace in us.

 The Eucharist is the greatest sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Father. The Liturgy of the Eucharist ends on a high note of dialogue when the presider says or chants the Doxology “prayer of praise” to signify that the whole sacrifice is offered “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit” and that all glory and honor is to the God the Father. We then begin preparation for receiving the Holy Eucharist as we say or sing the “Our Father”, which leads to the exchange of peace, signifying our reconciliation with God and with one another before we are invited to receive Holy Communion. The presider then begins an important dialogue saying, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the banquet of the Lamb,” and we respond, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  We then go in all humility to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. As we come forward, the priest says, “the Body of Christ.” And we respond “Amen” which means I believe. The moment we receive the Holy Eucharist is a deep experience as we received the Son of God; God himself!

 Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Why Godparents?

Godparents are an important part of the sacrament of baptism. They are there journey henceforth with the newly baptized and support the parents in bringing up their child in the Catholic faith. During the actual rite of baptism, the godparents take an active role ‘standing up for” the person being baptized. This involves promising to guide the person in the faith.

The primary responsibility for forming a child after baptism resides with the parents. Sponsors however promise to help them in serving as guides, role models sources of encouragement and support. For an adult baptism, the godparent accompanies the new believer on their journey to baptism (RCIA) and participate actively in the rite of initiation and thereafter through life’s journey of faith.

Who can be a godparent?

The question of who can be a sponsor is important. Often time we have parents who have no knowledge of the criteria for choosing a godparent for their child. Once in a while we have parents who choose a godparent because he or she is a relative or close friend. The following are the criteria:

v A Catholic who is in good standing, which means, one who is a practicing Catholic. Baptism and confirmation needs authentication from their parish with a letter from the pastor of the parish showing the dates when these sacraments were received.

v If married, he or she must have married in the Catholic Church and a proof of their Church marriage is required.

v A practicing Catholic who actually goes to Church and receives the sacraments. This is important because if a godparent is not practicing, how will he or she help your child as role model?

v A Catholic who is 16 years and above.

v A godparent must be prepared to attend a preparation session for the sacrament with the parents. This commitment is important.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

What Happens at a Baptism

Since Baptism is an incorporation into Christ’s Body, the celebrant (priest or deacon) begins with a reception (welcome) of the child or children being baptized. This reception symbolizes being received into the community of believers. At this time, the celebrant asks for the name by which the child will be called. This is a sign of identity, just like in every family every member has a name. This is also the name by which the child is baptized. Then the celebrant reminds parents and godparents of their responsibility of forming the child in the faith of the Church beyond the baptism as the child grows. At the end, on behalf of the whole community, the celebrant, parents and godparents trace the sign of the Cross on the child. Finally The introductory rite concludes with the Liturgy of the Word, a brief homily and General Intercessions.

The actual baptism begins with the blessing and invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the Baptismal Water. This is followed by the renunciation of sin since baptism requires us to reject sin and re-assess our values, decisions and lifestyle. Next we profess our faith in the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in whose name the child is to be baptized. We also profess our commitment to the Church’s beliefs, values and vision. A very pointed question is asked at this point to parents and godparents: “Is it your will that this child be Baptized in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?” All respond “It is.”

The rite of Baptism consists of:

The pouring of water or immersion;

The words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Matthew 28:19)

After Baptism, the newly baptized is anointed with Holy Chrism that symbolizes our consecration inviting us to Christ’s discipleship that calls us to holiness and the practice of charity. The celebrant then give the newly baptized a white garment that symbolizes the new life the we have received. Finally, godparents light a candle from the Easter Candle and hold it before their baptized child. The celebrant reminds the parents and godparents to keep that light of Christ burning until Christ comes again. The rite of baptism concludes with a beautiful blessing for the mother and father of the newly baptized and for those present.

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

What is the Sacrament of Baptism?

Since the earliest times of the Church, the sacrament of baptism has been the rite of initiation into the Church. It is often referred to as the “door into the Church,” or the gate which gives access to the other sacraments. Without baptism, one cannot receive the other sacraments. It is important for parents to understand the sacrament of baptism before bringing their child for baptism.

In baptism, we are forgiven of all sins including the original sin which we inherited from Adam and Eve. More importantly, we are initiated and welcomed into the family of faith – the Church. This initiation takes place through a number of symbols that we shall elaborate in part 4 on “what happens at baptism?”

The Church teaches that baptism frees us from the original sin, and puts an indelible mark in us as reborn children of God. In baptism, the “one Spirit” makes us members of the Body of Christ and of one another (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church #1267). In the one baptism of Christ all members share “a common dignity” so that “no inequality arising from race or nationality, social condition or sex” exists, for all are one in Christ (Second Vatican Council Document, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church – Lumen Gentium, #32).

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

Journey through the Sacraments Pt.2

Part 2: The Sacraments of Initiation

Baptism (from the Greek noun βάπτισμα baptisma, meaning immersion) is the sacrament in which, by water and the power of the Holy Spirit, a person is cleansed of all sin, including the original sin, and is reborn into the new life of Christ. We also say that a person becomes a new member of the Body of Christ. The action by which Baptism takes place is twofold:

The pouring of water or immersion;

The words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Matthew 28:19)

Confirmation (from the Latin verb confirmare, meaning to make secure, firm or strengthen) is the sacrament in which the baptized members are strengthened by the Holy Spirit in order to bear witness to Christ throughout their lives by taking on the role of a disciple and steward of Jesus Christ. The Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred by a bishop or priest with the following action and words:

Laying of Hands and anointing with Holy Chrism The words  “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Acts 8:14-17)

Eucharist (from the Greek ευχαριστία efcharistia, which is a translation of the Hebrew word berekah both meaning thanksgiving or praise for the wonderful works of God.) is the sacrament in which the true Body and Blood of Christ, who is truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, is received in Holy Communion. The materials and the words by which the true Body and Blood of Christ is made present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are the following: 

· Bread and Wine 

· The words of  institution by the priest:  "This is my body.... this is my blood.... (cf. Luke 22:19, originally from 1 Corinthians 11:24)

In the next article, we will start a mini journey through the sacrament of  Baptism. 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Journey through the Sacraments

Part 1: Introduction

During this Ordinary Time of the Liturgical Year, we will take a “journey through the sacraments” in this space. We will journey through the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation), then the Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation, Anointing) and finally the Sacraments of Vocation (Marriage and Holy Orders).

We begin this journey with the most basic question: what is a sacrament? The word “sacrament” originally comes from the Greek word “mysterion”, which literally means mystery, secret, hidden. St. Augustine in the fifth century defined a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.” (#1131) This is a complex definition, so let's break it down.

 

·      The word efficacious means 'effective.' This means that sacraments do what they say they do. We believe that because of God's power, sacraments simply work. Thus, when I go to confession, I have no doubt that my sins are forgiven through the words of Absolution by the priest.

  

·        A sign is an object, word, or gesture that points to something beyond itself. According to Catholic teaching, sacraments use all kinds of human objects, words, and gestures, but all of these points beyond themselves to something greater, to God and His grace. 


·        Grace is defined as God's free gift of His presence, His help, and His salvation.

 

The Catholic Church therefore teaches that sacraments point to and are channels of God's grace. They work as an effective means of communication between God and His people. In the next bulletin, we will journey through the three Sacraments of Initiation. Stay tuned!

 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda

Thank you!

Thank you for your  Pledge

After three months of in pew capital campaign weekends, April 29/30 to July 29/30, the Lord has achieved the unthinkable. We made great advance towards our expected goal. With 371 pledges (30% of registered households) totaling $1.6 Million, we are more than half way to the target goal of $3 million; 50% of the total cost of the OCC that the diocese requires before the diocese will authorize us to get a construction line of credit. My faith tells me that the Lord will get us there. The reason I am so optimistic is because of you parishioners. I am so happy that so many of you have come forward to support your parish noble vision and mission. You have listened to the Holy Spirit inviting you to join other parishioners who took the lead.

I want to thank all parishioners for the trust you have given me and the parish leadership on this journey. This past weekend has shown me your faith, your conviction and trust in what we are doing in our parish. Thank you for your pledge.

In a particular way, I want to thank our parish leadership and staff for the time they have given to God to plan, strategize and execute our capital campaign. Without such leadership we would not be where we are today. Some of you have given away your family quality time just to serve the Lord as they serve the parish in their leadership. I thank each of you and your spouses and children.

There is at least one thing I have learned in this process. It is very easy to assume that everybody understands a capital campaign. In a capital campaign, every household counts in the success of the parish capital campaign. Some households have discussed and prayed about what they will sacrifice in order to give to the parish capital campaign. One such story touched me very deeply. Thank you for your sacrifice and commitment. May God bless you abundantly. 

Msgr. John S. Mbinda 

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