Mar 25, 2014

We believe now, because we ourselves have heard him.

To those who are preparing for baptism during the Easter in 2014 in Niigata Diocese:

I am sure there are number of candidates preparing for baptism during this coming Easter in the diocese. As our diocese is quite large and it is not practical or is almost impossible to gather all these candidates in the diocese for a combined rite of election at the Cathedral, I am not sure how many elects are in the diocese at this moment. Unfortunately there are no candidates for baptism in the Cathedral parish this year. In the past, around 50 to 60 adult baptism are confered in all over the diocese every year.

Last Sunday on the Third Sunday of Lent, many of you might have experienced special rite called scrutiny in your parish. Even though in case there are no candidates in parish, the entire community prayed for you. Though Baptism is quite personal matter for your life but it is also the community matter. Entire Catholic communities of Niigata Diocese are walking with you throughout your spiritual journey and supporting you by our special prayers.

On the Third Sunday of Lent this year, story of Jesus with a Samaritan Woman from Gospel of John was read. Water given by Jesus "will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life". I think those who believe in Jesus are already given this spring within one's heart. However, unfortunately, our worldly thoughts quite often cover and hide the spring so that we do not enjoy this life-giving water.

In the first reading, people of Israel complained against Moses when they found their way ahead was not what they had expected. However that complaining turned out to be challenging against God. We have to always determine whether our way ahead is the way we just wish to happen or the way prepared by God which leads us to the spring of life. Many a time, such way prepared for us by God leads us to completely opposite direction from where we wish to go according to our human wisdom or judgement. Then we complain. We may even say God does not know the reality of our life. But that is the way of God.

I would like to remind all those who are preparing for baptism, one important point from the last part of the Gospel story of a Samaritan Woman.

At the end of this story, people of the town told the woman that "we believe now, not because of what you said, but because we ourselves have heard him, and we know that he really is the Savior of the world."

One of the most important action in our faith in Jesus Christ is self-determination. Our faith is not like depending on someones decision or believing what is written in a book or following someones directives. We can not just depend on others to maintain our faith. We have to make our own decision.

Probably we might have been motivated by others to come to Church. Probably we received the very basics of our faith from others such as parish priests. However, beyond these basics of our faith, we ourselves have to struggle to find out through our own encounter with Jesus. It is precisely "not because of what you said" but we meet him and find out who he is. Our life as Christian always demand us to make choices, to decide and to move on.

Then we do not do this decision making alone in isolation. We do so in our community. Church community is the place which give us general direction towards to God. With brothers and sisters of the community walking and supporting each other, we feel confident to make our own decision. So we need community to show us general direction to God. We are not alone but we are together with members of the community who also meet same Jesus.

As Jesus promised "for where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them (Mt.18:20)" we encounter Jesus in the Church community. He is there. Without our personal encounter with Jesus, we are not able to deepen our faith. At the same time, without community in His name, we can not maintain our faith.

After baptism, unfortunately, number of members just stop coming to Church. Coming to Church is not only fulfilling Sunday obligations. It is not that you are completing requirements for entering Heaven. You have to try your best to be with your community because there you meet Jesus and you are given general direction where you should head for. Then, as I have been saying, rest is all up to you to make your own decision and act.

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