Sacraments & Sacramentals

The other day a friend wrote and asked a question. It was an interesting question.

Jesus to Nicodemus, “You must be born again of water and the Spirit.”

“Is the answer to this that in the earlier examples, only the disciples did the baptizing and John is using a Hebraic figure of speech such that his disciples did them in his name and by his authority? If so, it would seem that these baptisms were not, in fact, salvific but were more like the non-sacramental baptism of John the Baptist. Am I getting close?

“FYI, the context here is a caller asked the same question and got two different answers from two different guests. The caller wanted to know how Jesus could administer the very salvific baptism he announces in John 3:5 when the Spirit had not been sent yet.

Thanks, author of John’s Gospel!”

Here is how I responded: 

Transition periods in salvation history are not always easy to peg, for example, did the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them (Jn 20:22-23) or when the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost?

 Another one, in Acts they were baptized in the “Name of Jesus” but Matthew says “in the Name of Father…Son…Holy Spirit.” The believers St. Paul found in Ephesus had only been baptized with John’s baptism and were then baptized by Paul in the name of Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-7). Should  it be in the Name of the Trinity, or in the Name of Jesus? And obviously some Christians were baptizing without the full understanding or proper method of baptizing.

Jesus stood as a bridge or transition between John the Baptist’s baptism of repentance and St. Paul’s baptism in the Name of Jesus that brought the Holy Spirit. I have to believe that when Jesus baptized, or rather when his disciples baptized in persona Christi, that something actually happened since Jesus had already announce the salvific quality of baptism earlier in John 3:3-5. Just like Jesus turned bread into his Body in the Upper Room, I believe that Jesus also through baptism brought about a regeneration. If not his baptism in John 4:1-3 is out of context with what He says in John 3:3-5.

As to who baptized – Jesus or his disciples? Let’s begin with the multiplication of loaves and fish. When Jesus broke the loaves did HE give the miraculous bread to the people (Jn 6:11) or did his disciples distribute the bread and fish? Or did Jesus give it but THROUGH the hands of his disciples (Mt 14:19)?

Your comment about in persona Christi I think is very correct.

From my book St. John’s Gospel, A Commentary and Bible Study Guide:

In verse 11, how did Jesus distribute the bread and fish? How do the other Gospels shed light on the actual means of distribution (Mt 14:19; Mk 6:40–41; Lk 9:14–16)? How did Jesus work through his apostles (cf. Jn 4:1–2; CCC 1335) as his delegated agents, with the claim that it was done by Christ himself? How does this help us understand the priesthood and the sacraments (cf. Jn 4:1–2; CCC 1548)? How does this help us understand the deeper meanings and sacramental content of St. John’s Gospel?

» Theological note: This is the only miracle in which Jesus allows his disciples to participate. Why? What does it symbolize? Compare it with Numbers 11:13ff. Here the appointed leaders participate in the “spirit” with Moses; so with the apostles and their successors with Jesus. This is a beautiful picture of the Catholic Church: “all the people” representing the universal Church, gathered in “small groups” of fifty to one hundred, representing the local churches, all being fed by Christ, the great High Priest, who provides the miraculous “bread” of the Eucharist to all the people through the hands of his priests, the apostles.”

 Also,

 According to verse 1, how many disciples did Jesus have? What is symbolic and sacramental about the fact that “Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples … although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples” (Jn 13:20; CCC 858, 1548)?

» Theological note: The priest in the Catholic Church sacramentally stands “in the place of Christ” (CCC 1142, 1548). The priest shares in the work and priesthood of Christ, without in any way detracting from Christ’s unique and singular position as High Priest. As one who prays for another shares in the intercessory work of Christ (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; Rom 11:2, which refers to Elijah interceding with God; Eph 6:18; 1 Tim 2:1), so those who are disciples of Christ do things in his name, especially the priest who acts in a special way—in persona Christi—in the person of Christ.”

 Now as to whether the baptism is sacramental or only a Jewish washing – as a sign of repentance, looking forward to the sacrament. This is an interesting question.

 To suggest that Jesus through his disciples did not have the authority or the power to regenerate would seem rather weak. It is interesting that he is baptizing immediately following his statement that one “must be born of water and Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.”  So do Jesus’ actions contradict what he just said to Nicodemus? Do the people being baptized expect more than Jesus is actually giving? And never do I see Jesus saying “you’ll have to be baptized again after my resurrection to be regenerated.”

On the other hand, since the Holy Spirit had not officially come yet on the day of Pentecost others have a good point saying that it’s not the baptism of the New Covenant, yet.

However, in the upper room Jesus broke the bread and said it WAS his Body even though he had not yet offered himself as the sacrifice, having not yet died on the cross. The sacrament of the Eucharist had been instituted as a New Covenant sacrament yet the descent of the Holy Spirit would not take place for another fifty three days. But Jesus still says that the bread he holds in his hand is his Body and Augustine says, “he held his own flesh in his own hands.”

So I can see both sides though I fall on the side of believing it did what the “sign” suggests. In other words, I believe Jesus instituted the sacrament of Baptism when he announced it to Nicodemus and began baptizing immediately thereafter.

For a very thorough discussion of this matter in the 1913 edition of the 13-volume Catholic Encyclopedia, which I read only after writing the above, click here. Seems we concluded the same thing :-)

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

by Steve Ray on May 2, 2018

100_1650Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant.

It continues to be a problem between Catholics and many Protestants. If you want to know more about it and why we as Catholics practice it with joy based on Scripture and early tradition, read my article here.

The picture is our granddaughter Elizabeth Arabella Rose Ray getting baptized 5 years ago — a little pagan becomes a Christian.

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Why Can’t Evangelicals See the Eucharist?

by Steve Ray on April 24, 2018

I was recently asked why Evangelicals cannot see the Eucharist and Real Presence in the Bible. This person said that when they read the Bible it seems so clear — especially John 6 where Jesus says “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood . . .” and at the Last Supper when he said, “This IS my flesh.”

“Why is it so easy to see for me,” she wrote, “while Evangelicals miss  it?”

alife-super-sunglasses-1There are a good number of explanations for this, but I tried to put it in simple terms. I responded:

“In answer to your question it all depends on what kind of glasses you are wearing. If you wear dark colored glasses you see things differently than if you wear clear or red shaded glasses. Every tradition, whether it is Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, or Lutheran has a tradition or grid through which they read and interpret the Bible. No one approaches the Bible objectively without any preconceived ideas or convictions.

“If one wears Baptist glasses and is convinced of the Baptist teaching, then they will see everything they read through their own Baptist ideas or tradition; they read their tradition into the text. Since they are told the Eucharist is only symbolic, they twist and tug to make Scripture fit their perspective.

“Also, as Evangelicals we (or at least I) was convinced the Catholic Church was wrong and we didn’t even understand what they believed or the basis for it. I also didn’t know that ALL Christians for the first 1500 years believed what Catholic’s now teach. And that even now ALL Christians around the world believe in the Real Presence except for a very small sliver of the Christian pie — the Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and a few other newly invented groups.

“The Catholic also has a tradition which has been handed down from the apostles. We can trace it with full confidence back to Jesus himself. When we read the Bible we have on our Catholic glasses which enables us to understand the Scriptures the way the apostles wrote it and the early Church understood it. We trust Scripture and the Tradition and this tradition is that which was taught by the apostles (2 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6).

Be proud, yet humble, to be Catholic!”

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So, Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice?

April 2, 2018

Who Says the Mass is a Sacrifice? Well, Jimmy Swaggart says it is NOT a sacrifice and wrote: “The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is, without question, one of the most absurd doctrines ever imposed on a trusting public…  Roman Catholic errors are inevitably human innovations that were inserted into the church during the early centuries. This teaching […]

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Infant Baptism

February 10, 2018

Infant Baptism is discussed and argued about quite a bit in some circles. I was raised Baptist and taught that Infant Baptism was a man-made tradition invented by the heretical Catholics who abandoned the Word of God to follow ill-advised tradition. (Picture: My granddaughter Elizabeth Arabella Rose Ray is baptized.) But not all Protestants reject Infant […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

January 7, 2018

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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White Bread and Shot Glass of Grape Juice: But Now I am Home!

September 16, 2017

Revet Elizabeth wrote: I grew up Catholic, left off practice of my faith, then wandered around several churches before coming back.  It just seemed like the preaching I was hearing treated the Bible like Ann Landers, and people wanted to be soothed rather than challenged.  There would be preaching and singing but no Eucharist.  It’s […]

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Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

June 27, 2017

Pastor Bob Preaches The Word (or does he?) By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious […]

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Defending the Eucharist: Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

June 14, 2017

This month my topic on Catholic Answers Live was “Defending the Eucharist.” You can listen here. Questions I Answered: 1. What did you believe about the Eucharist before you became Catholic? 2. What helped you understand the fullness of the teaching and why did you change? 3. The Bible also says Jesus is door, the […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 25, 2017

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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Did St. Ignatius of Antioch REALLY Believe in Transubstantiation in the 1st Century?

January 10, 2017

A friend and fellow pilgrim got in a row with a friend on Facebook and asked for my help. You might enjoy the question and the answer. My friend wrote: “I have a quick apologetic question.  A Protestant Facebook page was denying the Eucharist and I pasted St Ignatius’ quote about the Eucharist, “Let us […]

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Did Jesus Contradict the Old Testament’s Prohibition on Drinking Blood?

January 7, 2017

Leonard Alt debates an anti-Catholic named Phil. He writes: I have a choice: I can listen to the Evangelicals who confuse the blood of animals, with the blood of Christ and choose not to eat the Flesh and drink the Blood of Christ, or, I can listen to Jesus who said; “Whoever eats my flesh […]

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Cross vs. Crucifix

January 6, 2017

(From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix with the corpus of Christ on it. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam […]

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The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

January 2, 2017

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

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Rome in the Eye of a Storm

December 13, 2016

Catholic Journalist and writer for National Catholic Register summarized the situation in Rome as the Pope refuses to respond to a growing number of voices requesting an explanation of his document Amoris Laetitia. I found it worth reading, along with the two below. Msgr. Charles Pope has written  the clearest and simplest explanation I’ve read to […]

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Petition to the Holy Father for Clarification. I Signed Today with over 800,000 other Catholics

December 4, 2016

I received and signed this petition today… On the eve of the Ordinary Synod on the Family held in Rome in October 2015, we delivered to the Holy See a “Filial Petition to His Holiness on the Future of the Family” signed by 879,451 persons, including eight cardinals and 203 archbishops and bishops, asking for […]

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