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Monday, third week of Lent

February 25, 2008

Blessed Monday!

God of mercy,
free Your Church from sin and protect it from evil.
Guide us, for we cannot be saved without You.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.
(Opening prayer of today’s Mass)

Readings:
2 Kings 5:1-15 (Elisha cures Naaman the leper)
Psalm 42:2, 3, 43: 3, 4 “My soul is thirsting for the living God; when shall I see him face to face?”
+Luke 4:24-30 (Jesus is rejected in his hometown)

How hard it is for us to be receptive to God’s gifts. We’re much better at demanding them–on our own terms. But to receive what God wants to give in the way He wants to give it?…we’d sooner throw Him off a cliff.

We see this first in Naaman, the foreign commander who’s already gone to quite a bit of trouble for the chance at a cure for his leprosy. On the word of a slave, he’s troubled his king for letters of recommendation to a foreign power, made ready for a journey and set off into enemy territory. He’s quite ready to ask God for what he wants–but not ready at all for God’s answer. Listen to yet another servant? Bathe in a muddy river? What’s this?! Shouldn’t an impressive cure (of, ahem, an impressive man) come by impressive means?

God’s more impressed by humility.

Fortunately for Naaman, he has humble servants who love him (he can’t have been all bad), who share some of their humility with him. “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said” (II Kings 5:13). Their humble pleading cooled his indignation and awakened his humility. His heart became like that of a little child, humbly obedient to God’s word, as he dipped seven times in the Jordan. His skin, too, became like that of a little child, smooth and clean and healthy, to match his heart. His heart then awakened, not only to humility, but also to faith, as he declared that he would no longer worship any god except the One Who had healed him.

Great and mighty deeds have a special appeal for us, especially if we get to brag about them later. There’s something exhilarating in the chance to “prove yourself”, for the sake of a worthy reward. Unfortunately, that exhilaration all too often leads to trusting yourself at God’s expense, to the illusion of self-reliant pride. It can even creep into our Lenten observances, especially if we’ve given up or taken on something particularly difficult and seem to be succeeding on our own strength.

If God had told you to do some great thing for Lent, would you not have done it? All the more now, since He says to you, “Wash and be clean,” should you do as He said. So how do we Catholics wash up?

Well, our very first bath is in the waters of Baptism, which wash away all sin and spiritual debts. Lent is all about preparing for the renewal of our Baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. It’s a good time to practise, to dust off those vows to reject Satan and live only for God, to look them up and ponder how to apply them to the specific circumstances in our lives now (I’ve included a script for the celebration of Baptism for your convenience). It’s a good time to bring home a bottle of holy water from church (your priest can show you the supply reserved for just this purpose–you’ll need your own bottle) and to get used to using it as a regular reminder of those vows.

And after Baptism, we bathe our woundedness in the Sacrament of Confession. Is God calling us to dip seven times into this Sacrament of healing? (that would amount to once a week during Lent if we include the week of Ash Wednesday)

Both of these practises reflect the symbolism of Naaman’s cure. The Jordan, where Naaman was healed, was the original place of Baptism, where diseased souls are healed, born again as clean, healthy little children in the Kingdom of Heaven. Confession is the restoration of Baptismal innocence, progressively healing our brokenness and uniting us with the very holiness of God.

Even the number seven has special significance, referring both to the fullness and completion of the seven days of creation (Baptism and Confession are both “new creations” of our souls) and to the swearing of an oath. In Hebrew, the word for swearing an oath literally meant to “seven yourself” (see Scott Hahn’s Swear to God, ch. 8). In each of the seven Sacraments, we are swearing an oath, entering into a solemn covenant with the Almighty to serve no other gods, even as Naaman did when he followed up his seven-fold bath in the Jordan by carting home two mule loads of sacred ground on which to worship God alone.

These practises also reflect a receptivity that was completely lacking in Jesus’ neighbors. They, too, were willing enough to make demands, to expect Jesus to do great things for them. But the example of Naaman, far from moving them to imitate this foreigner’s humility, filled them with indignation so fierce that they bodily expelled Jesus from His own hometown, intending to hurl Him over the edge of the cliff. He went right through their midst and walked away.

God is in our midst. The Sun of Justice with His healing rays has risen upon us (see Malachi 3:20). Indignation at His quest for humility will send Him away. Humble receptivity will unleash new life and joy beyond our wildest dreams.

May we humbly do our part to wash and be clean, trusting the great things to God.

CELEBRATION OF BAPTISM
(taken from the Rite celebrated at the Easter Vigil)

[before the Easter Vigil, adult candidates for Baptism have already
celebrated several Rites in preparation–an expansion of the first part
of the Rite of Baptism for infants. The first includes signing
each of their senses with the sign of the cross, to set each sense apart
for God. This is followed by one or more minor exorcisms, such as the
following, to beg God to deliver them from the power of the evil one.

Celebrant:
Lord Jesus Christ, loving Redeemer of all,
Your Name alone has the power to save,
the Name before which every knee should bend
in the Heavens, on the earth, and under the earth.

We pray for these Your servants,
who worship You as the true God.

Look upon them and enlighten their hearts,
free then from the snares and malice of Satan,
heal their weakness and blot out their sins.
Give them discernment to know what pleases You
and the courage to live by Your Gospel,
that they may become the dwelling place of Your Spirit,
for You live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Candidates have also been anointed on the breast and both hands
with the oil of catechumens:

Celebrant:
We anoint you with the oil of salvation
in the Name of Christ our Savior.
May He strengthen you with His power,
Who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

Finally, during the day on Holy Saturday, the priest celebrates the
“Ephphetha Rite”, reading the story in Mark 7:31-37, and touching the
candidates’ lips and left ear while saying:

Ephphetha: that is, be opened,
that you may profess the faith you hear,
to the praise and glory of God.]

PRESENTATION OF THE CANDIDATES FOR BAPTISM

[The Candidates for Baptism are called by name and their Godparents
present them. They take their place before the celebrant in the
sanctuary.]

Dear friends, let us pray to Almighty God
for our brothers and sisters, N. and N.,
who are asking for Baptism.
He has called them and brought them to this moment;
may He grant them light and strength
to follow Christ with resolute hearts
and to profess the faith of the Church.
May He give them the new life of the Holy Spirit,
Whom we are about to call down on this water.

LITANY OF THE SAINTS

Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. R. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy. R. Lord, have mercy

Holy Mary, Mother of God, R. “…pray for us.”
Saint Michael
Holy angels of God,
Saint John the Baptist,
Saint Joseph,
Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
Saint Andrew,
Saint John,
Saint Mary Magdalene,
Saint Stephen,
Saint Ignatius,
Saint Lawrence,
Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity,
Saint Agnes,
Saint Gregory,
Saint Augustine,
Saint Athanasius,
Saint Basil,
Saint Martin,
Saint Benedict,
Saint Francis and Saint Dominic,
Saint Frances Xavier,
Saint John Vianney,
Saint Catherine,
Saint Teresa,
[here include your own patron saint(s)]
All holy men and women,

Lord, be merciful, R. Lord, save your people.
From all evil,
From every sin,
From everlasting death,
By your coming as man,
By your death and rising to new life,
By your gift of the Holy Spirit,

Be merciful to us sinners, R. Lord, hear our prayer.
By your grace bless this font where your children will be reborn,
R. Lord, hear our prayer.
Jesus, Son of the living God, R. Lord, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear us. R. Christ, hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. R. Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.

BLESSING OF THE WATER

Father, You give us grace through sacramental signs,
which tell us of the wonders of Your unseen power.

In Baptism we use Your gift of water,
which You have made a rich symbol of the grace
You give us in this sacrament.

At the very dawn of creation
Your Spirit breathed on the waters,
making them the wellspring of all holiness.

The waters of the great flood
You made a sign of the waters of Baptism
that make an end of sin
and a new beginning of goodness.

Through the waters of the Red Sea
You led Israel out of slavery
to be an image of God’s holy people,
set free from sin by Baptism.

In the waters of the Jordan
Your Son was baptized by John
and anointed with the Spirit.

Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from His side
as He hung upon the cross.

After His resurrection He told His disciples:
“Go out and teach all nations,
baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit.”

Father, look with love upon Your Church
and unseal for it the fountain of Baptism.

By the power of the Holy Spirit
give to this water the grace of Your Son,
so that in the Sacrament of Baptism
all those whom You have created in Your likeness
may be cleansed from sin
and rise to a new birth of innocence
by water and the Holy Spirit.

[the Easter candle is lowered into the water]

We ask You, Father, with Your Son
to send the Holy Spirit upon the waters of this font.
May all who are buried with Christ in the death of Baptism
rise also with Him to newness of life.

RENUNCIATION OF SIN

Celebrant: Do you reject sin,
so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?

Candidates for Baptism: I do.

Celebrant: Do you reject the glamour of evil,
and refuse to be mastered by sin?

Candidates for Baptism: I do.

Celebrant: Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?

Candidates for Baptism: I do.

PROFESSION OF FAITH AND BAPTISM

Celebrant: N., do you believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of Heaven and Earth?

Candidate: I do.

Celebrant: N., do you believe in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our Lord,
who was born of the Virgin Mary,
was crucified, died, and was buried,
rose from the dead,
and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?

Candidate: I do.

Celebrant: N., do you believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting?

Candidate: I do.

Celebrant: N., I baptize you in the name of the Father,

[he pours water the first time]

and of the Son,

[He pours water the second time]

and of the Holy Spirit.

[He pours water the third time.]

[The choir sings a brief refrain.]

ANOINTING AFTER BAPTISM

Celebrant: The God of power and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
has freed you from sin and brought you to new life
through water and the Holy Spirit.
He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation,
so that, united with His people, you may remain for ever a member of
Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.

Candidate: Amen.

[In silence, the candidate is anointed with chrism on the crown of his
head.]

CLOTHING WITH A BAPTISMAL GARMENT

[At the words, “Receive this baptismal garment” the Godparents clothe
the newly baptized in their baptismal garments.]

Celebrant: N., you have become a new creation
and have clothed yourselves in Christ.
Receive this baptismal garment
and bring it unstained to the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ,
so that you may have everlasting life.

Newly Baptized: Amen.

PRESENTATION OF A LIGHTED CANDLE

Godparents, please come forward
to give the newly baptized the light of Christ.

[A Godparent of each of the newly baptized goes to the celebrant, lights
candle from the Easter candle, then presents it to the newly
baptized.]

[Then the celebrant says to the newly baptized:]
You have been enlightened by Christ.
Walk always as children of the light
and keep the flame of faith alive in your hearts.
When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet Him
with all the saints in the heavenly Kingdom.

Newly Baptized: Amen.

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