Thursday, 5 September 2013

Go baptise

Baptism in the 3rd century
Last night I watched the first Papal Audience after the summer break. It felt exciting and moving to hear the gospel "make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" proclaimed in an array of languages, one after the other, to the vast crowd gathered from all nations - so it seemed - in the hot Roman sunshine (many sheltering under Papal-coloured umbrellas or oriental paper parasols).

In my previous life, as an Anglican deacon, the command of the gospel would have been a joyfully obvious one to follow. To baptise, to welcome someone into the Church of God, was one of the most awesome and beautiful aspects of my ministry. And I still hear these gospel command addressed to me as a Catholic laywoman. The challenge is - how to obey with authenticity here and now?

In the rites of the early Church the deacon would accompany the candidate down into the waters of baptism. It's an image I've explored many times with my spiritual director as we've tried to tease out what ministry means in my life now. It seems a fitting image for what I'm privileged to do as a spiritual director myself: walking alongside the pilgrim as he or she shares in the death and resurrection of Christ. But I think the gospel offers a challenge that's not just confined to what I do in the spiritual direction room.

I've long been struck that in the gospel we're called to baptise not in the name of the Trinity so much as into the name: eis to onoma. To plunge the new member of the Body of Christ into the vast ocean of love that is God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A lovely thought, but what a scary challenge: is my life such that others may glimpse in it the loving heart of God, enough to want to be plunged in (whoever does the baptising)? Not when it's left to me to run it, that's for sure, but with God's grace..? There are echoes here for me of yesterday's post about being apostles, and indeed of the Oaks of Mamre.  How do I show the loving hospitality of God, and attract others to it, not now as an ordained minister, not just as a spiritual director, but as me?  I need to pray...

Oh, and why, in my days as a deacon, did no one ever tell me about pyramids of tassels on a dalmatic?

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