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Homily for Tuesday of the 6th Week of Easter, 07 May 2024, Jn 16:5-11

Pope Francis, in his dialogue with parish priests, told a story about a man who had a conversion experience and told the then archbishop how it happened and how he believed that he was being called by the Lord to join the Catholic Church and was therefore asking if he could immediately be baptized. The Pope made us laugh when he said, right then and there, he brought him to a faucet nearby, opened the tap and baptized him with only his sacristan as witness, no fanfare at all, and thereafter entrusted him to a catechist for further faith formation.

In the Acts of the apostles, we hear of similar instances where people were baptized almost immediately without demanding any requirements or formalities. We have the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, the baptism of Cornelius and his fellow Gentiles in Acts 10, and today’s reading about the baptism of the prison guard and his household in Acts 16.

It looks like we’ve forgotten that the real basic requirement for baptism is not formal catechism but CONVERSION. Not indoctrination but a palpable sign of a change of mind and heart after encountering Jesus Christ in person, through the witnessing of a disciple to the good news of the reign of God. This conversion experience can be likened to a kind of AWAKENING, by which one gets to recognize his calling to a totally new life—a new relationship with God, no longer as a mere creature before the Creator, nor as a mere image and likeness of the Divine, but rather as a member of God’s family and therefore also as a sibling to every man, every woman—nay, every creature in this world, our common home.

The catechumenate is a mere follow-up to a conversion experience that brings about a deep sense of joy, a joy that emanates from a real living encounter with Christ. No wonder the Church introduced another sacrament, intended as follow-up to baptism: confirmation. This sacrament makes more sense as a follow-up, especially to infant baptism, because it’s obvious that a baby is not yet capable of a conversion experience. And so the follow-up prepares for a fuller realization of the grace of baptism, hopefully by a voluntary desire to embrace Christian life—or any sign of conversion or disposition to welcome the Holy Spirit into one’s life.

In the Gospel, Jesus is giving his disciples a consoling assurance that his departure would not mean he was abandoning them. He was leaving them only so that he could be more present with them through the Holy Spirit. That presence is what baptism confirms. It is a presence he says that is supposed to make an impact on the world; it will convict the world in three things: in sin, in righteousness and in condemnation.

In sin, because those who do not believe in him will not be hopeless. They will have many other chances of encountering him and being changed by him in his disciples. In righteousness, because, although they will not see him anymore after his ascension, they will get to see him in his disciples who will represent him. And finally in condemnation, because the only condemnation that he desires is the condemnation, not of human beings, but of Satan who deceives the world.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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