We celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday (January 10, 2021). Thankfully, there is an opportunity to preach and to reflect during the Sunday homily not only on Jesus’ Baptism but on our own individual baptism and its importance.
Over the past 30+ years of baptizing infants, children and adults, I have had many occasions to inform parents, godparents, and sometimes even the persons being baptized (if they are old enough) just what Baptism means. Obviously, the outward sign of pouring of water signifies a cleansing. By Baptism, we are freed from original sin and (if having reached the age of reason) any personal or actual sin.
Baptism is our entry into the Catholic Church—we become a Christian. Baptism is also the doorway to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we become part of the Mystical Body of Christ as well as an adopted child of God with the privilege of calling God our Father. We are filled with God’s sanctifying grace and with the Holy Spirit. We also share in the priesthood of Christ—the priesthood of all believers.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.” (1272)
So much happens spiritually through the immersion in or the pouring (on the forehead) of water with an invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
While infant Baptism is part of an ancient tradition dating back to the 2nd century, we still have some parents who, on occasion, tell us that they are going to “let their children decide for themselves (about Baptism) when they get old enough.” I question the logic in this practice. Don’t parents usually want the best for their children in so many ways? They want them to go to the best schools, to eat good healthy foods, to wear nice looking clothes, to associate with polite, well-behaved friends, to be successful in life. Yet, when it comes to a matter like eternal life through Christ, they somehow do not seem to think that faith in Christ is something worth sharing and giving to their children! I’m certainly confused here!
Although there are currently restrictions (?) on the use of holy water fonts in many churches, there is nothing prohibiting you from coming to church with a container of water to have the priest bless some water for use in your home. Holy Water is a sacramental reminding you of your Baptism. Its use helps us to recall how essential Baptism is for the believing, practicing Christian and allows us to renew our own baptismal commitment to Jesus Christ and rejection of Satan in our lives.
St. Paul tells us:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6: 3-4)
Fr. Ed Namiotka