Saturday, January 8, 2011

Baptism of the Lord

"Is it your will that your child should be baptised in the faith of the Church which we have all professed with you? N. I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

The significance of our baptism can easily become relativised. In a strong Christian culture, it can become a convention or norm to have a baby baptised in the first weeks or months of life. The ceremony itself is often done with a small group of people some random evening, or as part of a large collection of babies. Both circumstances can unfortunately create an atmosphere that does not reflect the majesty and greatness of  what is taking place.  Baptism involves the whole Church. As the Pope says in the little clip below, baptism is not the private possession if the family, or any group, it is a celebration of the entire family of God, united in Christ.

Today's commemoration of the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan provides an opportunity for reflection on the centrality and importance of baptism in the life of the Church and for ourselves as followers of Christ. It is the gateway to Eternal Life, the invitation to faith and the first of the sacraments of initiation.  It is also the response of faith; personal faith of an adult and the faith of parents and guardians of little ones.

I remember hearing a disturbing interview on radio one day. I was personally shaken after it. A mother was very angry. She wished her child to go to a cetain school in her town and as the school was a Catholic school she was asked if her child was baptised. The child was not, as the mother "had no interest in that sort of superstitious rubbish" quote, unquote. She and the host of the radio interview began to pour scorn on the idea of baptism as requirment for admittance to a school. That is not the point I wish to bring up, however. The conversation ended with the mother being advised to go and get the kid baptised with the advise "you don't have to mean any of it". The mother concluded that is what she would do. Now, I have no idea how the story ended off air. But I remember sitting in the car, asking myself, did I really hear what I thought I heard.  Did I just hear a radio producer reduce what I believe to be one of the most important events in the life of a person to that - an excuse to get into a school, a sham to endure? Alas the sacredness and uniqueness of the event seems to have become lost to a greater or lesser extent. Often baptism is a tool for access or a chance for a party.

Our baptism is the first sacramental encounter with God. We become immersed in the love of God and receive the gifts of grace. It brings us into the community of the Church, restores unity with God and gives us the promise of the new and everlasting life with all our sins forgiven. As we celebrate God's theophany may we remeber that in baptism we share the very life of God. In the Sacrament of Baptism we become part of Christ, sharing in his mission of priest, prophet and king. Baptism is not a social occasion with a religious aspect  to mark the beginning of a new life. It is a sacred religious occasion in a social context that reminds us of what we are and what we become through water and the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is our sharing in the life of God, just as we witness God sharing in our life today. The psalm says "as the deer pants for running waters, so my soul thirst for you, my God" In baptism we receive the life of God which satisfies. We see the Heavens opened and hear the Voice. In the signs and symbols of the sacrament we see the dove and believe in Christ;  the Father's beloved. Let us listen.

(From Rome Reports, January 2009)

"As the deer pants the running water, so my soul longs for you God"

No comments:

Post a Comment