Friday, April 24, 2015

CHRIST AND THE PENITENT

Bishop Jacques-Benigne-BOSSUET (1627 -1704)
Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
“I came not to seek the Just”
 

In the whole teaching of the Gospels there is nothing more touching than God’s gentle and loving way of treating His reconciled enemies, that is, converted sinners.
 


He is not satisfied with blotting out our stains and washing away our filth; to His infinite goodness it is but a little thing that our sins should do us no harm. He would have them actually profit us. He draws out of them such benefits for our soul that we even feel constrained to bless our very transgressions, and to cry with the Church: “O Felix culpa!” [Blessing of the Paschal Candle, Easter Vigil]

His grace seems to struggle with our sins for the upper hand, and Saint Paul says that it even pleases Him to make grace abound more where sin has abounded. In fact, He receives penitent sinners back with so much love that innocence itself might almost be said to have cause for complaint or at least for some jealousy at the sight of it. The extreme gentleness with which He treats them, if their regret
for sin be but real, appears to do away with all further need for regret. Let but one sheep stray from His side, and it seems to become dearer to Him than all the others who remained constant; like the father in the parable, His heart melts over His returned prodigal rather than over the elder,faithful brother. We seem, indeed, at first sight to have ground for saying that the penitent sinner has the advantage over the just who have not sinned; that restored virtue may triumph over innocence
preserved. Nevertheless, it is not so. We may never doubt that innocence is a privileged state - and if there were no other reason for maintaining this it would be enough to remember that Jesus Christ chose that state for Himself.



Mercy is an integral part of Justice.
Observe the terms in which the great Apostle declares His Divine Master’s innocence: “Talis decebat ut esset nobis pontifex”: “It was fitting that we should have a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, Who needeth not to offer sacrifices for His own sins” [Hebrews, vii, 26], but, being holiness itself, expiates sin. Must not the Son of God, then, have dearly loved the innocence that He took for His own lot? No, His tender feelings for converted sinners does not place them above holy souls that have never been stained by sin. Only, just as we feel the blessing of health most keenly on recovering from a long illness, though we
would far rather have been spared the illness and kept our strength unbroken; or,again, as a lovely mild day in the midst of a hard winter is peculiarly enjoyed from its unexpectedness, yet it is by no means so pleasurable as a long mild season would have been.So, humanly speaking, we may understand how Our Lord lavishes tenderness on freshly converted sinners, who are His latest conquest; yet, He nevertheless has a more ardent love for His early friends, the Just. ... Though Jesus Christ, as Son of God, may take pleasure in seeing at His feet a sinner who has returned to the right
path, yet, being Himself essential Sanctity, He must love the innocence that has never strayed with a stronger love. For as it is nearer to His own infinite holiness and more perfectly imitates it, He cannot help honouring it by closer familiarity. Whatever favour the tears of a penitent may find in His eyes, they can never equal the pure charm of a holiness ever-faithful to Him.
 


But when God becomes man to save us from our sins He, as our Saviour, comes to seek the guilty: for them He lives, because to them He was sent. How does He Himself describe the object of His mission? “Non veni vocari iustos” (“I came not to seek the Just”), that is to say : “Though they may be the most noble and worthy of My friendship, My commission does not extend to them. As Saviour, I am to seek the lost; as Physician, the sick; as Redeemer, those who are captive.” Hence it is that He loves only the society of such as these because to them alone He was sent into the world.
The angels, who never fell, may approach Him as Son of God: that is the prerogative of innocence; but, in His quality of Saviour, He gives the preference to sinners.
 

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Premier Sermon pour la Fête de la Nativité de la Sainte Vierge
1659/1660 - Hôpital Géneral de Paris


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"...BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN..."

The Risen Christ
There are passages and phrases from Sacred Scripture which , in the post-Conciliar period, have come to induce confusion among many, even most, layfolk. The fault behind their difficulty lies with "spirit of the Council" homilists, and worse, lazy homilists. 

An example  is the "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabacthani" cry of Christ from the Cross - "My God, My God, Why hast Thou abandoned Me?" It is simply ignored by the homilists - too lazy to point out that it is a quote from the Psalm 22:1 which was always related to the Messiah and well known to the Scribes and the Pharisees.Thus, not a cry of despair but rather an assertion of His Messianic role. Yet the people in the pews, largely unaware of this are left to wonder if God the Son on the Cross thought that God (which He is ) had abandoned Him.

But we are concentrating here on another phrase : ".....but few are chosen"

The latter day homilists let this phrase also simply pass by, usually without comment, or if note is taken of it, it is misinterpreted. At first blush it is certainly not an encouraging statement :

" Many are called, but few are chosen."( Matt. 22.14)  

What is the meaning of this ?
 




Father Romano Guardini (1885-1968)

In his famous book "The Lord",  first published in English in the late 1940s Father Guardini ventures into discussion of this phrase in the course of his examination of the Beatitudes. Father Guardini's book is generally full of enlightening and perceptive observations and analysis. Yet here , he seems to become somewhat entangled.

Let us try to follow his thinking :

In Part Two No. III he begins to sum up the Beatitiudes , noting their revolutionary demands on mankind. That is to say, they move from prescriptions of what actions man must perform as the Law did, to requiring inner virtue so that purity of intent and its definition of love for others, must be the essence of man's new disposition.He takes the matter further, wondering if it is possible for man to meet this standard?

He then proceeds in short order to quote Matthew 7: 13,14 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy,[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

He notes that Jesus came to" seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). It must be then, that it is certainly possible for at least some ordinary folk - those upon whom God's Grace is out-poured, to be saved. Father Guardini begins to wallow somewhat at this point, beginning to reflect on individuals' personal abilities to respond to God's Grace. He then moves along to reflect on the story of the rich young man who chooses not to accept Christ's invitation to follow Him because of his attachment to his worldly goods. This leads Christ to comment on how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God.

 When this amazes the disciples ,Jesus repeats  "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God" (RSVCE Mark 17:24) They were "exceedingly astonished" and replied: "Then who can be saved?" ( 17:26) Jesus responds: "With men it is impossible, but not with God ; for all things are possible with God."( 17:27) 
Christ in Judgement
"With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible."( Matt 19:26)


Father Guardini  reflects on the beneficial role of the Church which Christ has established and armed with the seven sacraments to facilitate the provision of His Grace to man on his pilgrim way.


We need to examine this passage carefully, because, as it occurs it can be deceptive. Most tend to see the "Many are called, but few are chosen" as applying  solely to the improperly dressed guest who is ejected and his relationship to the other guests at the feast. But , on reflection we see that there is no logic in that , because in the parable only one person is ejected -thus "not chosen" and the vast majority remain. 

No, the parable's "many" includes all those originally invited, plus those later called to replace them when they would not come.  The parable is of course about the Jews and Christ's Church. The wedding guests invited are the Jews , the Chosen Race. But , over time, when God sends the Prophets to call them to the feast, to perfection, they manhandle them, reject them, kill them. And finally, He sends His Son and they finally will kill Him.Then God will send His servants, the disciples "out into the whole world" to invite everyone good and bad in to the feast,the Kingdom of God, which is the Church. But it is necessary to follow His teachings and accept His Grace - the wedding garment - to remain. 

The "few" are the remaining guests at the feast the faithful members of Christ's Church, the Kingdom of God. But we are warned of the need to do right and follow Christ faithfully - wearing the wedding garment of Divine Grace - if we are not to be ejected.                                                                                                                                                      


Monday, April 20, 2015

MOHAMMEDANISM AND PEACE


MOHAMMEDAN INVADERS

Mohammedanism and Peace
September, A.D.  622. 


"The Prophet Mohammed had taken flight with a few followers from the hostile city of Mecca to friendly Medina, thereby marking the starting point for the whole Muslim era; and just five years afterwards, in 633, the armies of Islam would begin the advance that was to take them, in the course of a single century, to within 150 miles of Paris and to the very gates of Constantinople, Christendom’s most formidable rival - and for the next thousand years its most implacable enemy - was already born, and would soon be on the march.


Until the second quarter of the seventh century, the land of Arabia was terra incognita to the Christian world. Remote and inhospitable,productive of nothing to tempt the sophisticated merchants of the West, it had made no contribution to civilization and seemed unlikely ever to do so. Its people, insofar as anyone knew anything about them, were presumed to be little better than savages, periodically slaughtering each other in violent outbreaks of tribal warfare, falling mercilessly upon any traveller foolhardy enough to venture among them, making not the slightest attempt towards unity or even stable government.


Apart from a few scattered Jewish colonies around the coast and in Medina and a small Christian community in the Yemen, the overwhelming majority practised a sort of primitive polytheism which, in the city of Mecca - their commercial centre - appeared to be somehow focused on the huge black stone that stood in their principal temple, the Ka’aba. Where the outside world was concerned they showed no interest, made no impact and certainly posed no threat.

Then, in the twinkling of an eye, all was changed. In 633, showing discipline and singleness of purpose of which they had previously given no sign and which was therefore totally unexpected by their victims, they suddenly burst out of Arabia. After three years they had taken Damascus; after five, Jerusalem; after six, all Syria. Within a decade, Egypt and Armenia had alike fallen to the Arab sword; within twenty years, the whole Persian Empire; within thirty, Afghanistan and most of the Punjab.


Then, after a brief interval for consolidation, the victorious armies turned their attention to the West. In 711, having occupied the entire coast of North Africa, they invaded Spain; and by 732, less than a century after their first eruption from their desert homeland, they had crossed the Pyrenees and driven north to the banks of the Loire - where, after a week-long battle, they were checked at last.”


— Byzantium Vol I p.302
by John Julius Norwich

Friday, April 10, 2015

MOHAMMEDAN TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

MOHAMMEDAN TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

POPE FRANCIS
ARMENIAN GENOCIDE BY THE TURKS
I wrote this item in December,2006 for the Monthly Newsletter "FOUNDATION" - Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday 12th April, marking the Centenary of this horrible crime.:
Turkey and the Armenian Genocide
Much has been written in recent times about the genocide of Armenians (many of whom were Catholics) by the Turks during World War I.
To the Turkish Government the matter is unmentionable. It is quite bizarre: Germans are abject in their regret about the holocaust, the Japanese acknowledge but don’t apologise for their war atrocities, but the Turks will not even hear the subject of the Armenian genocide raised even after ninety years. (The French in their particular way made the point — it is now illegal in France to deny the Armenian genocide by the Turks!)
Some historic writings make Turkey’s actions obvious. The American Ambassador in Constantinople in 1915 was Henry Morgenthau (whose son was to become Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury) and his memoirs contain the following account of his dealings with the Turkish Interior Minister, Mehmet Talaat Pasha, one of the leaders of the “Young Turks” and an architect of the Armenian genocide:
“...I have asked you to come here”[, Talaat said,] “so as to let you know that our Armenian policy is absolutely fixed and that nothing can change it. We will not have the Armenians anywhere in Anatolia. They can live in the desert, but nowhere else.”
I still attempted to persuade Talaat that the treatment of the Armenians was destroying Turkey in the eyes of the world, and that his country would never be able to recover from this infamy.
“You are making a terrible mistake,” I said, and I repeated the statement three times.“Yes, we may make mistakes,” he replied, “but” -- and he firmly closed his lips and shook his head -- “we never regret.”
One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard. The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians. The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.“I wish,” Talaat now said, “that you would get the American life insurance companies to send us a
complete list of their Armenian policy holders. They are practically all dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money. It of course all escheats to the State. The Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?”

This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.
“You will get no such list from me,” I said, and I got up and left him.
Turkish Quotes
Enver Pasha One of the triumvirate rulers publicly declared on 19 May 1916...
"The Ottoman Empire should be cleaned up of the Armenians and the Lebanese. We have destroyed the former by the sword, we shall destroy the latter through starvation." In reply to US Ambassador Morgenthau who was deploring the massacres against Armenians and attributing them to irresponsible subalterns and underlings in the distant provinces, Enver’s reply was...
"You are greatly mistaken. We have this country absolutely under our control. I have no desire to shift the blame onto our underlings and I am entirely willing to accept the responsibility myself for everything that has taken place."

Talat Pasha
In a conversation with Dr. Mordtmann of the German Embassy in June 1915...
"Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate (grundlich aufzaumen) its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention."

After the German Ambassador persistently brought up the Armenian question in 1918, Talat said
“with a smile”...
"What on earth do you want? The question is settled. There are no more Armenians"



In due course we hear the great admirer of Martin Luther on the subject
.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
— Adolf Hitler

Sunday, March 29, 2015

GERMAN BISHOPS - THE FAITHFUL ONES , AND A SWISS , STAND UP




Cardinal Reinhard Marx Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference
Some weeks ago Cardinal Reinhard Marx , Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference spoke in surprising terms about the forthcoming October Synod on the Family which is the continuation of the contentious late 2014 Synod.

Briefly, Cardinal Marx told reporters that after the Synod, the German Bishops intend to produce their own pastoral document. The Synod he said, must lead to " further progress" in finding a common position on fundamental issues, but it " cannot prescribe in detail what we are to do in Germany". But he said that the German Bishops could not wait for the Synod statements.  " We are not just a subsidiary of Rome" said Cardinal Marx continuing that each episcopal conference is responsible for its own pastoral care in its own culture in " its own unique way".

This expression of view is of course totally alien to the truth and reality of the Catholic Faith. But for days it went unanswered at the highest levels. But finally it seems that " at the highest level" the pfennig dropped.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller seen here with Pope Benedict XVI
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, himself a German with a good knowledge not only of the German culture but also of the characters of the members of the German Bishops' Conference, finally fired a devastating broadside destroying the Marx assertions.

Cardinal Muller, referring to Cardinal Marx, noted that " the President of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator , and he does not have any particular magisterial authority." He reminded a French newspaper that doctrinal, or even disciplinary, decisions regarding marriage and the family are not up for determination by national bishops' conferences. 

"It is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church" Cardinal Muller said. " Episcopal Conferences have authority on certain matters, but they are not a magisterium beside the magisterium, without the Pope and without communion with all the Bishops." He went on " an episcopal conference is not a particular council, much less an ecumenical council . The President of an episcopal conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and he does not have any particular magisterial authority due to this title."

"Hearing that an episcopal conference is not " a branch of Rome" gives me the occasion to recall that dioceses are not the branches of the secretariat of a Bishops' conference either, nor of the Diocese whose Bishop presides over the episcopal conference."  He continued that such an attitude " risks in fact reawakening of a certain polarization between the local churches and the universal Church, out of date since Vatican I and Vatican II. The Church is not the sum of national churches , whose Presidents would vote to elect their chief on the universal level."  The Church is " not a philanthropic organization. To say that we respect the opinions of all , that we wish for the good of all, is not enough."

Further he said " To present the Gospel as a simple therapeutic message is not very hard , but it does not respond to the demands of Jesus.'Blessed are you when people insult you , persecute you and falsely say  all kinds of evil against you because of me ' Jesus says. The first apostles, the Fathers of the Church, very often sailed against opposing winds.How could it be any different for us?"

Cardinal Cordes (left) seen here with Pope Benedict XVI in times past.
Cardinal Paul Cordes President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and a  German originally from Paderborn in Germany was strenuous in his objections to Cardinal Marx' statements in a letter to the Editor of " Die Tagespost" on 7th March.

Speaking of Cardinal Marx ' assertions, Cardinal Cordes stated that the "We are not a branch of Rome" was more suited " to the counter of a bar" he said. 

" The President argues about the drama of the divorced and remarried! This matter reaches far beyond regional particularities of a pragmatic nature, of a given mentality and cultural background. This matter is bound to the very center of theology. In this field not even a cardinal can loosen such a complex Gordian knot in a single swordstroke. He has the sacramental theology of the Council of Trent. He has also the words of Benedict XVI, who only recently (January 21, 2012) told the Roman Rota, the ordinary court of the Apostolic See, that no-one can simply brush over binding legislation of the Church when it comes to pastoral matters. A responsible shepherd cannot be guided by a blurred 'mercy.' And while the president repeats that regarding the Magisterium, he wants to 'stay within the community of the Church,' he either ignores the limits that this Magisterium gives to pastoral care, or he is carefree in making a statement to make himself sound good.”

Cardinal Cordes lamented that in Cardinal Marx' comments, the idea of communion – among bishops, and with the Bishop of Rome – was sorely lacking, “even though the bishops expressly promised 'unity with the College of Bishops under the Successor of Peter' during their episcopal consecration. The sentence: 'We cannot wait for a synod to tell us how we have to shape pastoral care for marriage and family here' is not imbued with a spirit of 'Communio'.”


Cardinal Cordes said that the message sent by Cardinal Marx was "a deeply political strategy which creates "facts" in order to dominate the process of decision-making and to put pressure on their colleagues."He asked " Does he want to say that the dogma of the inseparability of marriage becomes intolerable because of the life situations of remarried people?"


Cardinal Kurt Koch with Pope Benedict XVI in the background some time ago.


The Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch who had succeeded Cardinal Walter Kasper as President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on 1st July, 2010,also spoke vigorously against the words of the German Bishop Bode who had backed up Cardinal Marx and, like Marx  is also to be a  delegate to the October, 2015 Synod. His approach was devastating : he said that Bode's words brought to mind a similar historical situation - namely "the time of the Third Reich , where the "German Christians" adjusted their Faith to the world view of National Socialism, namely its racist and nationalistic ideas."

As the National Catholic Register said " With this comment, Koch made it clear that it is not the Catholic Church's mission to adapt her irreformable teaching to the spirit of the time, the Zeitgeist,but, rather, the Church has to follow Christ's teaching all times , throughout history."

Cardinal Koch summed it up :

" To see how and in which way people are living their Faith to-day, is of course helpful and important , in order to recognize the challenges of the pastoral duties of the Church. However this ( the "life realities") cannot be a third reality of the revelation next to Holy Scripture and the Magisterium."  

   











 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

POPE FRANCIS, THE MEERKATS AND THE CHAMELEONS













The election of Pope Francis just two years and a few days ago, certainly has brought in its wake a vigorous stirring of the waters within the Catholic Church. Anxiously, various groups of interested Catholics have looked for signs as to what the new Pontificate might mean for them.

Two special groups whose activities are not often identified are those I have chosen to call the Meerkats  and the Chameleons. Meerkats , not so much for the "loveable" characteristics usually imputed to those animals , as for the custom of the Meerkats to suddenly stand up craning for the best view possible to protect themselves and their interests. And Chameleons for their ability to change their colouring to blend in with the prevailing local colour range.

These first two years of Pope Francis' activity have been times of radical superficial change, and this has demanded the attention of both groups.The Modernist Meerkats had been steadily forced into a prolonged period of inactivity in the Pontificates of Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. They had lain slumbering in the " long grass" and rarely visible - it suited them in some ways. As one of them told me some years ago " We are all tired after all the struggle". The "struggle" was to get into the Church as much radical false " spirit of the Council" change as they could manage - extirpating the sense of the sacred, wrecking the interiors of churches,preaching thinly veiled heresies or sometimes blatant heresies, suppressing traditional groups, getting rid of clerical attire, confronting popular piety etc. 

Then Pope Francis arrives , the clamour of the Conclave attracted their attention . Roused from their slumber they stood erect in many places to see what was going on. As the novelties of the new Pontificate mutiplied, and all seemed to be useful to their aims, more and more of them stood up and thus identified themselves. They came to believe they were back in business. From layfolk to religious, to clergy and Prelates they became increasingly noisy and active. 

Hubris seemed to get the better of them. And the more senior they are the more this is true. Cardinal Kasper and a number of the other German Bishops were really high in this heady atmosphere. It is true that the Holy Father's favour, and remarks in Kasper's regard seemed 
to warrant their confidence. Seemed is the operative word. Their brash performance in the lead-up to the Synod and in the Synod seems to have blown up in their faces. The stalwart defence of Catholic Truth and orthodox practice by Cardinals Pell, Burke, Muller, Caffarra, Napier and Sarah and the majority of Synod members has mobilised a massive preparation for the October 2015 Synod which will return to the subject of Marriage and the Family .Despite administrative manipulations by the Meerkats, the defenders of the Faith and of orthodox practice will be ready for them.

What of the Chameleons? These are more subtle and deceitful creatures who " run with the fox and hunt with the hounds".  They will kneel in smiling admiration before Pope Benedict XVI and go back to their Diocese  and kow tow to the liberal majority there. Comes along Pope Francis and " Who am I to judge?" and they begin to espouse the liberal agenda openly  and facilitate the advancement of their more openly liberal fellows. From Southern Australia to the North they can be found to-day.Their new colouring shocks those who have known them, but it is the nature of the beast, and will revert to its former hues after the next Conclave no doubt.

Indeed, both groups will be already on the alert fearing that they have been flushed out in a false dawn. For in recent weeks reports from usually reliable sources record Pope Francis distancing himself from the views of Cardinal Kasper and moving his favour very strongly to Cardinal Caffarra (Archbishop of Bologna) who has always been a staunch defender of Catholic orthodoxy and a vigorous opponent of the Kasper approach. In addition they would note that the radicalist "unity" of the German Bishops is cracking with Cardinal Cordes and another Bishop openly opposing the stance of the radical majority.

Equally, they have come to see that on matters of Doctrine and Tradition the Holy Father is constantly affirming the Church's Magisterial teaching. His casual remarks may serve to grab attention but they never affect the orthodoxy of his considered teaching.

Life for Meerkats and Chameleons can be very "interesting" not say, distressing in these times, especially with the Holy Father publicly voicing his view that his Pontificate will be brief.

  


Saturday, March 21, 2015

" UNLESS A MAN........"


" UNLESS A MAN......."


POPE BENEDICT XVI BAPTISES A CHILD IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL

"UNLESS A MAN......."
We saw in our last post that the ONLY way to gain an authentic personal relationship with Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ, is to be a member of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church He founded. To be authentic, our relationship with Jesus Christ must be founded on the basis He determined, and be nourished by the means He provided.
Indeed, God's very purpose in crashing through from Eternity into time , was to achieve the Salvation of Man through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Divine Son. It was this Divine Son, Jesus Christ, Whose project for continuing His Salvific work on Earth, after His Ascension, is the Catholic Church - the very Kingdom of God of which He spoke so often.
This is a fascinating concept. 
No. More than that, as an act of God upon Earth - a theophany - it is an electrifying miracle. Not just another institution, the Catholic Church is wonderfully unique. God did this.
God did this, for us - she, the Catholic Church is His gift of Love to mankind.
In what character did God give Her to us? She knows herself well, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ Himself sent to guide and inspire her - and she tells us she is "Mater et Magister" , Mother and Teacher. And so it is that God's faithful children gather at her knee to learn in humble and loving simplicity.
But, But, you say........ how  does one come into this happy family of God, this Catholic Church?
Jesus Christ Himself, God made Man, has words for you, as you might expect. We recall with reverent awe the occasion of the visit by Nicodemus , a member of the ruling Jewish elite, probably a member of the Sanhedrin. In Saint John's Gospel 3:1-12 we are told Nicodemus came to Jesus " by night". We assume that this powerful man, though he had the germ of Faith at least, did not want it known abroad that he had spoken to Jesus. No. This was to be a private, indeed, a secret visit.
But it was to this weak reed that Jesus revealed the absolute necessity of Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. So important is it, that Jesus, God Himself, uses twice in a few sentences, His most earnest affirmation of His statement using His sacred formula : "Amen, Amen I say unto thee..."
Now you might think that would be sufficient to establish the fact forever and aye. But so essential, so vitally important is this, that later, following His Resurrection, at the time of the Great Commission, Jesus sent forth His Apostles, charging them to : "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I Am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."
And those words, Jesus had prefaced with these:
"All power in heaven and on earth is given to Me."
Now God does not waste words. He has no time for small talk. He did not even respond to praise of the Temple and it's magnificence - save to foretell its destruction. But here, He goes to the trouble of underlining that ALL power in heaven and on earth is His, only to proceed to insist yet again , on the inescapable importance of Baptism! Once again we have water and the Holy Spirit.
Here we have it in the classic formula  : a visible sign, instituted by Christ , to give Grace - it is a Sacrament.
Saint Paul elaborates on the nature and operation on the Sacrament of Baptism in Ephesians 4  : 1-6, when he says :
"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, exhorting you to walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience , bearing with one another in love, careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the abound of peace: one body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism........" There it is again. fundamental, essential Baptism.
There are seven Sacraments entrusted by Christ to His Church for her ministry and protection. Baptism, of its very nature, is the first administered, for it initiates the non- Catholic into the family of the Faith, making them a child of God.
They must as yet work out their Salvation "in fear and trembling" as Saint Paul tells us, and their Faith will be dead without good works as Saint James tells us, but by Baptism they are entitled to hope that, sustained by the seven Sacraments and with sincerity of heart, they might at last reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and Eternal Life with Jesus Christ, His Father and the Holy Spirit.