Though the term is not used as much as it used to be, today's passage from the Letter to the Colossians reminds me of the "indelible" mark we each received through the Sacrament of Baptism. This concept derives from the writings of St. Paul as we read today: For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:9-12)
Just as every Jewish male was marked through circumcision, so every baptized Christian is marked by baptism. That indelible mark is Jesus' claim on the baptized person just as the mark of circumcision is the mark of God on the chosen people.
St. Paul often refers to circumcision in his writings and the fact that the Jews "glory" in it and boast about it. As St. Paul progressed in his understanding of the Christian faith and in the Gospel he preached, he recognized that true glory lays in our baptism and the faith that it signifies. In his letter to the Galatians, he writes: But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation. Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body. (Galatians 6:14-17) While this passage is frequently used when we speak of stigmatics, it really refers to the indelible mark of baptism.
St. Paul also refers to his circumcision in chapter three of his Letter to the Philippians when he mentions the things of which he used to be proud: Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless. But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:5-8a)
As I meditate on the indelible mark that I carry because of my baptism today, I also give thanks for the gift of my faith. It is the rudder that steers my boat. It is my baptismal faith that makes sense of my vocation as a friar, a priest, and as one who has been called to holiness. It is the indelible mark of my baptism that makes the disabilities that I carry in my body the sure path to that narrow gate for which we all aim.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator