Baptism

Baptism ClipartThe Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC #1213) teaches us that “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments.” The word Baptism comes from the Greek word baptizein which means to plunge or immerse. Through Baptism we are freed from sin, renewed by the Holy Spirit and emerge as a “new creature” in God’s creation. St. Gregory of Nazianzus tells us that, “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift.” Baptism is a gift freely given by God to humanity, a gift we neither earn nor deserve. Through the waters and the word of Baptism we are regenerated through the Paschal Mystery (Christ’s passion, death and resurrection), to become sons of light. Without Baptism, no one can enter the Kingdom of God – “we are born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.” (CCC #1225) “The baptized have ‘put on Christ.’ Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.” (CCC # 1226) “According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ’s death, is buried with him, and rises with him.” (CCC #1227)

This section of Baptism is excerpted from Catholic Update, Baptism Our Lifelong Call, by Nicholas Lohkamp, O.F.M. Do you know the date of your Baptism? Many cultures remember and celebrate this date. It is the most important date of our lives! Our Baptism connects us with Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. God loved us so much that He gave us His only son so that we might have life through Him. Through the humanness of Jesus, he shows us how to live as a son of God. In Baptism, we become holy, but not completely holy, because we continue to sin. Through our Baptism we receive a calling, a mission, to become an instrument of peace (Shalom) and promote unity. Our Baptismal calling is the Will of God. Everything in our spiritual and moral life is measured through the lens of our Baptismal calling – to become instruments of peace and promoters of unity. When we celebrate our Baptism on a yearly basis, this is a good time to prayerfully ask: How am I being called to live? Am I building relationships in a loving and constructive way? Am I growing in my moral and spiritual life? Baptism is not a one-time sacrament. It is a lifelong, ongoing Call to holiness – to live as Jesus lived.

In Baptism, we are baptized as priest, prophet and (servant) king. What is our call to the priesthood we receive in Baptism? In 1 Peter 2:5, we are told: be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), #1546 states, Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church “a kingdom, priests for his God and Father.” The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be…a holy priesthood.” CCC #1547 further states, …the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace – a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit… Through the waters of Baptism, we receive a lifelong call to be a holy, royal priesthood by practicing, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, via our vocations, to participate in Christ’s mission. As stated in 1 Peter, we are to offer spiritual sacrifices as we live out our priestly vocations.

 As we learned in the previous paragraph, Catholic lay men and women, by their baptismal character, are empowered, through the Holy Spirit, to be priests, prophets and kings and so come to share in the Church’s ministry of sanctification, teaching and governing. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium teaches, in collaboration with their bishops and clergy, “the faithful who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, are placed in the People of God, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ, and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.” The office of prophet is closely aligned to the office of the holy priesthood. Our lives touch those who do not believe in Jesus, or those whose faith is unformed; perhaps these are members of our own families. Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called for a new evangelization. This new evangelization calls for the involvement of large numbers of the faithful Baptized. As prophets of the new evangelization, we are to be fearless of what others may think, and proclaim the infallible truth of the Church. We must love those who have not received or do not heed Christ’s message of truth and love. Perhaps one day, our love will offer to these people the greatest gift of all – the love of God the Father, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the salvation of Jesus Christ.

The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium teaches, Catholic lay men and women, as part of sharing in Jesus’ kingship, must engage “in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” We share in the kingship of Christ by governing and ordering society according to the Gospel principles and the Church’s teachings. We are commissioned by Christ to engage in the relentless war against a culture of death. We have courage from the Holy Spirit, through our talents and graces, to actively fight the forces of evil which corrupt our culture. Participating in Jesus’ kingship and the right ordering of family life begins at home; parents are to teach through example and word the Gospel messages of Jesus Christ. We are to embody and live out Christian principles through our service to our families, friends and neighbors, and make rules that personify these principles with a great deal of wisdom, patience, courage and fortitude. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, etc., we participate in Jesus’ ministry of governance through our love and proper discipline, with the authority conferred upon us by the Holy Spirit.

Through baptism, we receive a lifelong commission to be priest, prophet and king. As members of Christ’s Church, we share in His priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry, with all the authority and power associated with these ministries. Our Gospel call is to do all we do for the sake of Jesus Christ, for His Church and for all humanity. This is a high calling filled with challenges we must meet with courage, wisdom, joy, and most important, with love. The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium states, within the celebration of the Eucharist the laity bring all of their life’s work and activity, and so “worshiping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.” Our lifelong Baptismal call is to consecrate our lives to the world through our worship, actions, words and sacrifices. Baptism is an active commission which requires our daily participation. We must pray to lovingly, patiently and courageously live out our Baptismal call each and every day of our lives.