I remember, years ago, speaking with a woman who was a convert; she was struggling in her relationship with her (at best, indifferent) Catholic husband. I observed to her that much of the problem was that all he wanted was for her to come into the Church, but she truly became a full-blown Catholic. She had come to believe completely in the Catholic Church’s presentation of Jesus’ teaching, she was baptized during the Easter Vigil, and she was determined to live it in her life. This was not what her husband had bargained for.
We recite a Creed at Mass every Sunday and Solemnity—most of the time, the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan” Creed; during Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter, the “Apostles’ Creed.” Both begin with the words “I believe…” But what and how do we believe? How do the words of the Creed form a structure for living out the Faith?
The “Apostles’ Creed” is especially relevant as it is a form of what was the old Roman baptismal Creed; it is based on the questions we still ask today, of parents and godparents, when babies are baptized. “Do you believe…?” “I do.” But what are the implications for us in agreeing with these words?
Every Easter Sunday we use this Creed (in sung form, here at Our Savior) as an explicit renewal of our baptismal promises; if we were (as infants) too young, then, to affirm the Faith ourselves, every year we are asked to claim it. Even more: the purpose of the “holy water” in church is to be a sacramental: a reminder of our baptism every time we enter a church, dip our hand in, and bless ourselves. We are saying, “YES, Lord, I believe; I affirm and re-claim my baptism; I want to live as a child of the Light; I want to follow Jesus.” Taking just a few seconds to make ourselves conscious of our action, we are making a profound statement of how we want our lives to be ordered.
It is also important to remember the words of St Peter (Acts 2:38): “Repent and be baptized, every one of you…” and the words of St Paul (Romans 6:3): “…are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” This “death” is “repentance”—metanoia, the changing of the way one thinks, and therefore changing the way one believes and behaves. Choosing to be baptized (and choosing to renew our baptismal promise) is the pledge that we desire this changing, and it is the efficacious grace that washes away our sins and incorporates us into the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-13).
Living as members of the Body of Christ does not mean making ourselves perfect, but it does mean being open to being perfected by God. This perfecting is not instantaneous but a process—a process of increasing, day by day, in our capacity to love and forgive, to accept being loved and forgiven.
At this point, the Rite of Baptism declares: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our baptism must be professed in word and in deed; as the hymn declares, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”