Knowing the Full Story
In September of 2020, Bishop Robert Barron gave an address to the Knights of Malta, titled: “Ideas Have Consequences.” (1) In that address, he pointed out that, today, Christianity is engaged in a war, a war fought not with weapons but with ideas. And so far, this War of Ideas has been particularly detrimental to Catholicism.
An “us vs. them” atmosphere that was very harmful to both Catholics and Protestants.
As you may know, for a very long time following what is known as the Protestant Reformation, much of what was heard from pulpits, both Catholic and Protestant, centered on “what we believe is different from what they believe.” In time, this fueled an “us vs. them” atmosphere that was very harmful to both Catholics and Protestants. Vatican II sought to put behind us that “us vs. them” thinking, and Catholic homilies thereafter rarely pointed out ideas and rhetoric that conflicted with Catholic teachings.
As laudable as their intent was to reduce confrontation, this inadvertently opened the door to many ideas that were contrary to Catholic teachings that went essentially unchallenged. And many Catholics accepted non-Catholic ideas, often without realizing it. As the American political strategist, Andrew Rich, noted, “if you say something often enough, it will be accepted as true.” (2)
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Well. in this year’s Gospel passage for the Ascension [Mark 16:15-20], we encounter a statement, in Jesus’ own words, that is central to this War of Ideas. Just before ascending into heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples to preach the “good news” of salvation to all, and “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” [Mark 16:16]. So. to be saved, we need to believe, and we need to be baptized. Why? What happens in Baptism that makes it essential to our salvation?
In the War of Ideas, many Christians, including many Catholics, have come to accept the description of Baptism that is commonly voiced these days: “Baptism is a re-enactment of Jesus’ Baptism,” “it is a public expression of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.” “In Baptism, we are born again.” This is not incorrect, it’s incomplete., This description is silent on Baptism being necessary for salvation.
Through the sanctifying grace received in the sacrament of Baptism,
we “die” to our former self and we then “rise” to new life.
So what happens in Baptism that makes it so essential to our salvation? The answer is: through the sanctifying grace received in the sacrament of Baptism, we “die” to our former self – i.e., one who has entered this world with no access to eternal life with God, as a consequence of original sin. And through this grace, we then “rise” to new life – one who now has access to eternal life. So, Baptism is a “dying and rising” not a being washed of something, or some induction ceremony. This “dying and rising” in the sacrament of Baptism is necessary for our salvation. Without the sacrament of Baptism, without “being born of water and the Spirit,” as Jesus said to Nicodemus, we cannot enter heaven [cf. John 3:5]. The essential element of Baptism is its sacramentality.
People are being led to false conclusions, not primarily
through what is stated, but through omission.
Without the sacredness of the sacraments, “church” quickly becomes reduced to simply a gathering for some preaching and fellowship, that you can show up for, or not, as you please. “If we don’t need sacraments, who needs Church?” People are being led to such false conclusions, not primarily through what is stated, but through omission. And the road to such false conclusions begins with undermining the sacredness of the sacraments.
The Church is Christ’s treasury of sanctifying grace in the sacraments.
So, you wonder why we are in the situation we are in? Well, in this War of Ideas, we have not paid anywhere near enough attention to not only what is said, but also what has been omitted that will lead others to wrong conclusions. This leads us to the obvious question, “if we do not know our faith well, if we don’t know the full story, how will we recognize what is omitted? Let’s return to the Gospel passage where Jesus was very clear: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” [Mark 16:16]. The Church is Christ’s treasury of sanctifying graces in the sacraments [cf. CCC #774, 824 and 875]. Without the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Baptism, we cannot enter heaven. Friends, that is essential to knowing the full story.
‘Till next time.
Dcn Bob Evans
May 18, 2021
Mark 16:15-20, Mark 16:16; John 3:5.
1. Bishop Robert Barron, “Ideas Have Consequences” (video), Sept 18, 2020.
2. Andrew Rich, War of Ideas, 2018.