October 11, 2011

Infant Baptism – Part 1

The necessity of infant baptism

Ask a question about why Catholics baptize babies and the response is often “in case they die.” Leaving aside the questions about the fate of unbaptized children for now (CCC 1261), this is a fundamentally flawed answer for a number of reasons. The truth is, we baptize babies (and anyone else) in case they live. Baptism initiates the sacramental life, provides visible assurance of God’s Grace, and marks the person as a worthy recipient of all God has to offer. This worthiness does not come from the person, but from God, and infant baptism underscores the fact that God initiates the saving action. We are all as helpless as infants when it comes to bringing about our own salvation, but this is most obvious in an infant. Just as we expect a child to be washed and presentable before sitting down to an elegant dinner with us, God cleanses us and makes us worthy to sit at His table. The sooner we are cleansed, the sooner we can enjoy God’s company at table. Baptism is also a visible assurance of God’s Grace, provided we believe Christ’s own words. There is no need for the baptized child to question later, “was I baptized?” There is even a certificate. With the assurance that the event happened, and that it means a promise of Grace, the child can grow in confidence, with no doubt of God’s love and support. Even in sin, there is the confidence that repentance will be met with mercy, and that where there is no repentance, God will continue to call and look for the return of the prodigal. A baptized person need never doubt God’s love. Neither does anyone else, as God loves all, but the baptized person has received proof. Baptism is also a visible sign that the child deserves all the Church has to offer. The parents are bound by Baptism to treat their child as their beloved brother or sister, not just a child, and certainly not chattel. With some sensible restrictions, the Church cannot rightfully refuse to minister to that child, so Baptism brings an obligation to all baptized others, including the saints. The child is baptized priest, prophet and king, to become part of the Body of Christ, no less than anyone else, and with this in mind, how could any parent not desire it?

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