Water and a new heart

October 16, 2010

We know that human body is composed of about 60% of water. How significant it is. If water plays a significant part in our physical body, could it be that it also plays a significant part in our spiritual life? If this physical world is meant to point us to something deeper, could it be that there is something deeper also about water in the spiritual realm?

In the previous post, we have mentioned how the water that is used to bless ourselves as we enter the church reminds us of our water of baptism. That water of baptism brings us into the Church of God, which is Christ Body. We have also mentioned the prayer during the Baptism ceremony and how God plans to use water to signify something deeper, his beautiful plan for us. Now we will talk about water and a new heart: the effect of that water of baptism.

Long time before Christ, there was this prophet with the name of Ezekiel. In one of his prophecies, he spoke about water and a new heart.

“25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26* A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27* And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36

This verse really reminds me of the liturgy in the Church. And maybe the liturgy of the Church is meant to speak to us about this verse. There was this part in the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration when the priest will go around the people and sprinkle water. Isn’t it amazing? We don’t simply read the Word of God, we experience it! God says he will sprinkle clean water upon us, and we shall be cleansed.  We will be cleansed from all idols and uncleannesses.

Most people do not appreciate this good news because we don’t feel we have idols and uncleannesses. We thought we are ok. But what we feel or we think does not necessarily reveal what truly is. Just as someone who never bath for months will not realize the smell on his body so are we with our “sins” if we never cleanse it or even examen it. We adapted, and get used to it, and we rationalize it, that at the end of the day, we no longer realize the bad in it. I have met some people who say that this kind of retreat or that kind of retreat is for people who are new in the faith. They need conversion, these people say. But don’t we all need that ongoing conversion? The biggest lies that the evil can put in our mind is that, “you are ok”. And because when we think we are ok, we just do our religious rituals without “needing” God. We do it out of trying to be righteous. But blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who always in the need of God.

Many of us also no longer feel we have idols. We don’t keep charm or those devil statues. But Idols have come in many different ways today. They have different names. We can mention a few, like money, career, or maybe even boyfriend. We can also include in this list our dream or even our own ego. And Pride can be an idol as well. These are things that people worship these days, and most of us do not realize that we worship them. Only when we lose it, we start to realize how much we are attached to it. The list can go on and on when we try to examen our lives daily.

But this is the heart of stone that the prophet Ezekiel speaks. It is a heart that is not capable of loving. It is a heart that is not alive but dead. Because of money, we see people fight or even lie. Because of careers, we see how families are falling into ruin. Because of pursuing our dreams, we are willing to sacrifice others. Our mouth and our words also sometimes creates hurt and divisions. And we never realize a little bit, that our heart becomes a heart of stone, a heart that is not capable of loving . We see that in all of us, even with those who are in ministry in the Church. Ego and personal dreams strive rather than charity.

Maybe that is why every time we begin the Eucharistic Celebration, we also start with some penitential act. We admit our sins and weaknesses before God, and ask for His Mercy. If the Church does that regularly, aren’t we too suppose to have our conversion ongoing and not just once?

Interestingly if you notice, this penitential rite in the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration sometimes are substituted with another rite. And I hope you can guess what rite it is. It is the rite of sprinkling of water 🙂 Yes it is the moment when we remember of our heart of stone, and we ask God for a new heart, a heart of flesh that is capable of loving. A heart that is filled with the spirit of God so that we can love as God loves.

The prophecy says, “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” Some people have that honesty to realize that it is impossible to live as a Christian in Today’s world, with its ethical demand and call for holiness. And they are rightly so. It is impossible! But this is what God promises us in Christianity, that he will give us His Spirit within us. And that Spirit is the one that will “cause” us to live holy Today. I know it sounds like a cliche and some Christians even no longer believe in this Good News. But maybe it is also the very reason why “faith” has a such an  important place in the Christian religion. It is by believing in God’s power to save us, that we will never lose hope in that promise, and we will continue to accept that grace that can save us. Rather than following those who no longer believe in the Good News, let us follow Mary in her faith, in that way, we too will hear the message that Elizabeth spoke to her, “Blessed is she who believes that the promise made her by the Lord will be fulfilled”- Luke 1:45.

So now, every time we bless ourselves with water or when we participate in the sprinkling of water rite at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration and in the renewal of Baptismal promise, let us remember this beautiful promise. Let us remember our weaknesses, and how God has the power to change our heart from a heart of stone, to a heart of flesh. Let us believe in God! During the renewal of our baptismal promise in the Easter Vigil celebration we cry out together with the whole Church “I believe in God!” Let us live what we proclaim. And as we believe, the Spirit will continue to change our heart bit by bit into a heart of Jesus, a heart of God.   This is the heart that is beating and alive, a heart that is giving life to others. Just as a human heart pumps out blood that gives life to our whole body, so too our lives should be. Our life should not be self-seeking but rather life-giving to others. If only Christians live what they celebrate in their Baptism and Eucharist, the world will be a different place. This is our hope, a new heaven and a new earth, a place where righteousness is at home (2 Pet 3:13). This is what our Baptismal water give us, the Spirit of God that make us holy. We are called to be holy, and that holiness should give life to the world around us starting from our family.

“25 I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26* A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27* And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. 28 You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36

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On that water as we enter the Church

September 25, 2010

We have talked about our gathering, how if only we can see from above, on every sunday, we gather like wheats are being gathered into one bread. And as we finish our Eucharistic celebration, we disperse into the world, just as a bread that is broken and shared to the world. We are that bread. And in this article, we want to reflect what we, catholic, usually do as we enter the Church. There is a place for holy water, and we usually dip our hands into that water and make the sign of the Cross, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And what does that sigify?

That water as I enter the Church really reminds me of my water of baptism. And is it a coincidence that we “enter” into God’s Church through Baptism, just as we enter the Church building and blessed by that holy water? Indeed, the water at the entrance of the Church reminds us of our own baptism and our entrance into God’s Church.

Many people no longer understand the importance of baptism. Many people thought just believing and doing good is enough. But what do we really believe in? If we believe in Jesus, then we should also believe in what he says, and he says:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” -John 3:5

Unless we are born of water and the Spirit, we cannot “enter” the kingdom of God. Do we really believe that? But why? and what does it mean to enter the kingdom of God?

There are several instances that involves water in the Bible. And the Church liturgy has beautifully narrate them in the liturgy of Baptism in Easter Vigil.  This is what the priest says when he blessed the water before baptism ceremony begins:

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 down 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 baptised 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, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

Father, look now with love upon your Church, and unseal for her the fountain of baptism.

By the power of the Spirit give to the water of this font the grace of your Son.

You created man in your own likeness: cleanse him from sin in a new birth of innocence by water and the Spirit.

How beautiful it is. In that short prayer, the meaning of our baptism is unfolded from what is written in the Scriptures!

I do not want to make this article to long, and so maybe I will talk a little bit here and there in the upcoming articles on some of the points mentioned in that prayer: the wellspring of holiness, a new beginning, set free from sin, anointed by the Spirit, water and blood, and grace. And how it is relevant as ever on how we should live as a Christian.


Clothed in Christ

October 12, 2008

In our core team intercessory prayer last Saturday, the leader read the first reading from Gal 3:22-29. As she read the passage, one verse caught me,

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ Jesus

(from my Jerusalem Bible translation)

Somehow this words bring to mind this year Easter vigil. I was asked by my brother to be his Godfather. I was rather hesitant in the beginning since I am not sure I can be a good Godparent. But in the end I said yes. During the Baptism ceremony at Easter Vigil, after the cathecuments were baptised, they were given a cloth, a white cloth with a cross. I helped to put on the cloth on him.

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ Jesus.

What a beautiful imagery! What a reality! My Godson has been clothed in Christ Jesus, that from that moment on, what we see is christ!

I can’t recall the time when I was baptised. I was baptised when I was baby. But that’s Ok. The Lord has brought me into the fullness of a Christian life! The catholic charismatic renewal has bring that grace in my life. They called it the baptism in the Spirit. The sacraments became alive! I love Jesus and I want to follow Him 🙂

I felt appropriate to thank my parents who bring me into this Christian lives. What a treasure that they gave me! When I was baptised, I was clothed in Christ Jesus. From then on, I put on Christ.