Baptism: A Tremendous Gift

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Pope Francis has told us that we should know the date of our own baptism as it was the beginning of our entry into the Kingdom of God. There are many different positions people can hold in the Church but all of these pale in comparison with the primary gift to each one of us, that being our baptism. When we stand before the throne of the just Judge, our dignity will depend on only one  thing: how well we have lived out our baptismal vocation.

The ceremony of baptism is a beautiful and powerful one. In it we were formally given a name, claimed for Jesus Christ, and welcomed into the Family of God. Our forehead was signed with the seal of our salvation, the Sign of the Cross, and the mark of Christ’s eternal love for us. Water was poured over us as a symbol of being cleansed from the stain of Adam’s sin. Baptism is a symbol of life and of being given a share in God’s divine life.

Not once, but twice, in baptism and confirmation we were anointed with the Sacred Chrism. Just as the bodies of athletes were smeared with oil to give them strength to compete, so we were anointed with the Chrism to give us strength against the struggle of evil. And just as kings, prophets and priests were anointed with oil and thus marked out as God’s ministers to the community, so we were anointed with the Chrism as agents of God’s love in the world.

We were clothed with the white baptismal garment as a sign of our Christian dignity. We received a candle lit from the Paschal Candle to symbolize the gift of faith being handed on to us. Through baptism, God has called us out of darkness into his own wonderful light.

What happened at the baptism of Jesus happened at our baptism too. God called us by name and said over us, “You are my beloved son/daughter.” The Spirit descended upon us, in order to help us live the life of a Christian and to participate in the mission of Jesus.

From a spiritual point of view, baptism is the greatest gift given to us. We are conformed to the image of Christ but this does not happen automatically. One has to learn what it means to be a disciple of Christ and this is the task of a lifetime. Towards the end of his life a saint was asked if he was a Christian, and he replied, “Not yet!” His response gives us hope!

There are many different vocations in the Church but these all flow out of our common vocation of baptism. Every time we enter the church and sign ourselves with holy water we are reminding ourselves of our baptism, and committing ourselves to live up to it. May we be faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus!

– Fr. Dennis, January 13, 2019