There are times when we are reminded that we are baptized Christians. Whenever we walk into a Catholic Church and bless ourselves with holy water, we should recall that we are baptized. On Easter Sunday, the priest will ask that we renew our baptismal promises (in place of reciting the Nicene Creed) and will go up and down the church sprinkling us with the newly blessed Easter water. As an option for the penitential rite at Sunday Mass, the priest may also sprinkle us with the holy water recalling our baptism. Additionally, the Baptism of the Lord provides an opportunity for us to reflect on our own baptism.
Baptism makes us a Christian. We are not born in union with God but alienated from Him because of original sin. While we did not commit this sin, all humanity was wounded or stained by the disobedience of the first humans. (See Romans 5:12-21) We are not born into Grace (God’s life) but receive this life through our baptism. By baptism we are cleansed from original sin (and any personal sin if we are old enough to know and commit sin). We become adopted children of God though Christ. The Holy Spirit now dwells in us. We die with Christ in baptism so as to one day share eternal life with Him. We are welcomed into the Catholic Church and become a member awaiting full initiation (which comes with First Holy Communion and Confirmation). We need to reflect often on what baptism has done for and to us.
We remain in God’s grace unless we sin mortally. The concept of serious or mortal sin tells us that a particular sin (a willing, thought-out choice that we make involving a grave or serious matter) can once again alienate us from God’s grace. Apart from original sin which we inherit, we choose to sin. Fortunately, it is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession) that once again restores our baptismal graces and reconciles us with God and the Church. I tell people that every confession is a new beginning for us and we become a new creation because of God’s abundant mercy.
The Church still advocates infant baptism. I recall how it was important for so many in past generations to take seriously the teaching of the Church that infants be baptized in the first weeks following birth. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth.” (#1250) The gift of Faith is so precious that I personally cannot understand how someone would knowingly deny or unnecessarily prolong his or her child from receiving baptism.
Baptism is one of those sacraments that is never repeated—once baptized, always baptized. It imparts a permanent character on us that is not removed—even by sin. Sin, however, can prevent baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Hence, there is a need and an obligation to be reconciled of any post-baptismal sin (especially mortal sin) by means of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
So I ask that you think about your own baptism and all of its implications. Parents who have not yet presented your children for baptism are reminded to take this obligation very seriously. If you bring a child into this world, you are responsible for his or her upbringing, physical and material needs, love and emotional needs, as well as his or her eternal salvation. We are saved only through Christ Jesus. There is no other way to the Father except through Him. (See Jn. 14:6) Baptism is the way to eternal life because it is the means by which we allow Christ to be truly Lord of our life.
Fr. Ed Namiotka