3 weeks ago, Christ was born, and today we flash forward 30 years and celebrate when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and begins his public ministry. So today is the last day of the Christmas season and tomorrow starts Ordinary time.
Most likely, 99% of us here today have been baptized, and for many of us, our baptism was many years ago. And so very few of us remember our baptism and perhaps have lost touch with what really happened, and what the effects are. In today’s society, there are many baptized people in the world but often times we would not be able to recognize those who have been baptized to those who have not; and so the effects of baptism is stripped of it’s power, even for us too. Therefore, for many people, when they think about what baptism is, they might think of as a cleansing or purification, or they think of it simply as an initiation into a faith or a belief, like what you do to be initiated into a club or secret society. In fact, for some Protestant denominations, even if a person was baptized as Catholic or even another Protestant denomination, they have their new members be baptized again because it was not in their faith or belief system. And don’t get me wrong, we are baptized into a faith, into a system of beliefs, into the Church, but it is much more than just an initiation into an organization or club. What I want to do today is, with the help of our Scripture readings and the Catechism, to highlight what the Catholic Church teaches the effects of baptism are, and help us to reflect on if those effects are active in our lives. The opening paragraph on baptism in the Catechism as it succinctly mentions the effects of baptism. Paragraph 1213 says, “Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons (or children) of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission”.
As Catholics, we should not think of baptism simply as an initiation into the Catholic Church, as some Protestant denominations think it as the first step into their faith. But rather, every baptism, no matter what the Christian denomination- as long as it is with water and in the words of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- and as long as that denomination has the belief of the Trinity as all true Christians do, then that person is baptized. According to God, there is only one baptism. And so, for Catholics, baptism is not an entrance into a Church as it is an entrance into the very life and love of the Blessed Trinity, and then through God into His one Church. It is for this reason that of the about 15 people who are entering into the Church this year, 8 of them have already been baptized. And so, they will not be again. Speaking of the baptized non-Catholics, the Catechism says, those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church”. Therefore, first and foremost, baptism allows us to share in the very life and love of God. And through being baptized into the unity of the Trinity, then we’re brought into the unity of God’s Church, the Catholic Church and her teachings.
Listen again to our Gospel. “After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘you are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’”. Think about that, contemplate on that amazing truth, when you and I were baptized, we were baptized into Christ- and the Holy Spirit descended upon us, and the Father says that He is well pleased in us”. My brothers and sisters, what if that is the first truth we think of about our baptism- not just that we were baptized Catholic- but that we are baptized into God- we are made sharer’s in the life and love, and the unity of God. That is what happens at every baptism. It happens at every baptism because God wants us to share, God wants to communicate, and breath His very life and love into us. When we were baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon us, and God the Father was well pleased, he delighted in us. And that is the truth that does not change, ever. So much so, that the Catechism teaches that baptism is an indelible mark which no sin can erase (1272). That we are made to share in the life and love of God is something that God wants, and so when it is given, there is nothing we can do to erase it, there is no sin that can take that away. However, that does not mean that every baptized person will automatically enter into Heaven. Yes, baptism is a cleansing, a purification. And the Church does teach that “by baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin”. But even still, we have the “tendency to sin” (CCC 1263). Indeed, God’s grace is given, but listen again to our 2nd reading. “The grace has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly”. So my brothers and sisters, let’s ask ourselves, how are we living out the grace of our baptism? Are we rejecting godless ways and worldly desires? Are we living temperately, justly, and devoutly?
Continuing the truth that baptism is indeed a seal of eternal life, the Catechism goes on to say, that the faithful Christian must keep the seal until the end, “remaining faithful to the demands of his baptism”. Do you think that demands are placed upon you at your baptism, or do you think that baptism is just something you receive, something given to you? Indeed, demands are placed upon each one of us from our baptism. Yes, at our baptisms, we are made children of God, but it is a reality that must be lived out, and the grace of our baptism trains us to live it out. In the midst of our continued sins and weaknesses, it is so hard to live as if we belong to Christ. But that is why baptism is only the first Sacrament, only the beginning of our life of Grace. It is with the grace of our baptism, and through our practice of Confession, Eucharist, and all the other Sacraments, that we are trained and learn to share more fully and perfectly in the life of Christ. Therefore, if you have been having a hard time living out the grace of your baptism, if it is hard to always see yourself as God’s child in whom He delights. If you don’t know what it means to have the Holy Spirit descend upon you. Then, right now, ask our Lord to renew the grace of your baptism, and then do things to grow in your knowledge and practice of the faith. Join Discovering Christ, join Lord Teach Me To Pray, join a bible study, or make time to watch and learn from anything in Formed.org. Start doing things to be trained in the faith, and the grace of your baptism will become more and more active to help you to live as His child. What if, my friends, we prayed that the grace will be renewed in us every time we bless ourselves with holy water as we come into or go out of the Church, and Adoration chapel. Imagine if at home, we blessed ourselves or our family members with holy water and prayed each time “Renew the Grace”, how much more would we be able to live out our baptism as His child and be the presence of God to others.
Finally, speaking of the demands of our baptism, be convicted by this powerful line of the Catechism, “Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but ‘to him who died and rose for us’. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, … to receive the Sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church. But then, “reborn as children of God, must profess before others the faith they have received from God through the Church, and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God”. In other words, we who are baptized into Christ and His Church, must share in the Mission Jesus gave: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt. 28:19). For baptism begins our journey to become disciples and make disciples of others. Therefore, we must learn and grow to see ourselves as His child in whom the Father delights, no matter what, but then also from that fundamental identity of our baptism, demands are placed upon us to help others to live the new life Christ gives in and through His Catholic Church. So, join me in praying, Lord, renew the grace of my baptism, and inspire and teach me to live it.BACK TO LIST