Fr. JOHN REDFORD
A step-by-step beginners’ guide to the Catholic faith
BECOMING A CHRISTIAN
People often ask, ‘What is a Christian?’ In this day and age, they will often give a moral answer to this question, to the effect that a Christian is one who loves his neighbour, and helps everyone he can. In saying this, they have expressed a most important and vital aspect of Christianity, that we must all try to live as Christ himself lived. They should say to us as they said of the early Christians, ‘See how these Christians love one another’.
This is all very true. But there is still more to being a Christian. Surely people of other religions (Moslems, Hindus, etc.) also try to love each other just as Christians do? There is then, something more to Christianity than a code of conduct; it is first and foremost a life of faith.
From the beginning, anyone who wished to become a Christian had to be baptized, that is, bathed or washed in running water as a sign of God cleansing from sin. Thus everyone who wishes to become a Christian must first of all recognize that he or she is unworthy of God’s love, and has deserved to lose his friendship, both as an individual and as a member of the human race.
But to say that we are sorry is not all we have to do in order to become a Christian. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, because, in believing this, we are led to love him as the Son of God, and so are filled with the love of God. There is no true love without faith, faith in the fact that God’s Son loves us, and has come down to earth to show us the true way to the Father.
That is why, at every baptism service, there is a profession of faith by the candidate: and even when a tiny infant is being baptized, his parents have to make an act of faith for him, until he is old enough to make it personally. And that is also why we say the Creed, the act of faith, at each Sunday Mass, to make us realize that this act of faith is not something which we do once and for all, but need to do throughout our lives.
A Roman Catholic Christian is one who believes that being a Christian also implies accepting the Pope as the successor of St Peter, and accepting the continued guidance of the Catholic Church as to matters of faith and moral conduct. Christ said to his apostles that ‘the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth’ and to Peter, ‘Simon… I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail’. This does not mean that we condemn other Christian to hell-fire; but it does mean that we believe that a Roman Catholic Church is the Church which Christ founded, and which is prevented by the Holy Spirit from teaching what is false.
At baptism, the Christian promises that he will renounce evil in all its forms, and will try to live a life which is as close as possible to that of Christ himself. This, of course, is impossible on our own; and even the best of us often fail. But in this we have the help of Christ given to us in the Sacrament of Baptism, and he has said, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world’. So we must believe that, having begun the life of a Christian we will, with Christ’s help, persevere to the end of our life on earth.
To help us persevere, we have the Sacrament of Confirmation, which gives us the strength of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. This also helps us to play our part in the community of God’s people as Christ’s own apostles. We all have our own contribution to make, as members of the body of Christ.
A Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the power of your love. Send forth your spirit, and we shall be recreated; and you will renew the face of the earth.