Our family is a rice family. We like to eat rice. In fact I have two rice cookers, a large one and a small one. Growing up my mom cooked a lot of meals with rice. And now for my own family I usually cook rice at least 1-2 times a week with meals. So last Sunday at Mass when Father Kirby started talking about RICE in his homily, it caught my attention. I definitely thought what he shared was worth blogging about in efforts to share the Catholic teaching on Baptism.
The Gospel reading that day was Matthew 3:13-17
Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
John tried to prevent him, saying,
“I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then he allowed him.
After Jesus was baptized,
he came up from the water and behold,
the heavens were opened for him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The early Church Fathers wrote in the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381), "We believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins." So why then did Jesus get baptized if he was without sin? Well He answers this when He said, "...it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus was baptized to make all the waters in the world holy and usable for baptism. His presence in the Jordan sanctified the natural element of water so that it could carry the forgiveness that only His person can convey. This view is also common among the Church Fathers as expressed by Maximus the Confessor: "When the Savior washed, all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages. Christ is the first to be baptized, then so that Christians will follow after him with confidence."
Unlike many other Christian faiths, the Catholic Church does not teach that Baptism is merely a symbol. The Catholic doctrine of baptism unites the symbol and the reality. It is because of the union of the symbol—water—with the reality—the Holy Spirit (remember after Jesus was baptized He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.) —that the apostle Peter can say, "baptism now saves you." It is the same idea as Jesus said in John 3:5, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
I realize many non-Catholics mistakenly think that Catholics believe the water in baptism and the bread/wafer during the Eucharist hold some special power. Not true at all. We believe that Christ's presence in the water, and in the bread is what brings about forgiveness and grace of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, physical things could represent spiritual realities because they also contain those realities. Christ forgives our sins, and The Holy Spirit renews our hearts. Catholics believe that a unanimous teaching among the Church Fathers carries a binding force for the Church today. Humility and willingness to listen to the Church of Christ throughout the ages is why we felt it so important to baptize Madeline and James so they would receive His forgiveness and receive the graces from the Holy Spirit.
Now onto Father Kirby's homily on RICE and how it relates to Baptism...
Madeline on her baptism day in July 2004.
Father Kirby told us about the customs and traditions in Nigeria when they baptize. Afterwards they celebrate and eat lots of rice. Also the baptismal garment or dress that is worn is called a "rice dress". Those are some of the connections Nigerians hold between baptism and rice. But Father Kirby expressed one can utilize RICE as a memory aid.
The R in RICE can remind us and stands for Rebirth. When a Catholic says that he has been "born again," he refers to the transformation that God’s grace accomplished in him during baptism. Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3:5. Often people miss the fact that baptism gives us new life/new birth because they have an impoverished view of the grace God gives us through baptism, which they think is a mere symbol. But Scripture is clear that baptism is much more than a mere symbol.
James on his baptism day in June 2007.
The I in RICE reminds us and stands for Initiation. At baptism we are initiated or admitted into full membership in the church. Even when a baptized person is a baby or very young child, the community welcomes the baptized as a new member. The Catholic Church has 3 sacraments of initiation—Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. Through Baptism, we are cleansed of Original Sin and receive sanctifying grace, the life of God within our souls. That grace prepares us for the reception of the other sacraments and helps us to live our lives as Christians.
The C in RICE reminds us and stands for Consecration. In baptism we consecrate and dedicate ourselves to seek and to spread the kingdom of God. We commit ourselves to be servants of God, to do God’s will and serve God with our whole lives. That’s where parents and godparents come in for young people. Madeline and James are blessed with wonderful Godparents, Uncle Mike (Madeline), Aunt Stormy & Uncle Kevin (James), whom are all dedicated to our Catholic Faith. They show great examples on how to lean on God and our Faith in Him during every aspect of life. They all have the humility and willingness to listen to the Church of Christ and stand firm behind the Church's teachings.
And lastly the E in RICE reminds us and stands for Empowerment. The Catholic Church teaches there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual. At baptism we receive Sanctifying Grace (Empowerment). Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly, it is supernatural life. And with this grace we're moved by God's divine pushes to repent. To rise about the cardinal virtues, which can be practiced by anyone, to the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which can only be practiced through the grace of God.
So now every time I make rice, I will always be reminded of RICE.