The Sacraments: Baptism
For the next few weeks, we will be exploring the Sacraments in greater depth. All of the Sacraments come from Jesus and bring Godâ€™s Love to us. They heal, strengthen, feed and consecrate us. In each Sacrament, some outward sign, such as water, oil or touching provides the earthy, â€œfleshyâ€ sign of the outpouring of Godâ€™s Grace.
Baptism is the first Sacrament of the Church. Through it, Grace is poured out, lives are healed and the Body of Christ gains new members.
Baptism is a miracle in many ways, all involving the symbolism of water. Here are some ways of looking at Baptism:
Â· Cleansing: the waters of the Jordan. Elisha the Prophet used the waters of the Jordan to heal Naaman of his physical uncleaness (leprosy) (2 Kings 5). John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance at the Jordan, and so offered spiritual cleansing within the Jewish tradition. In Baptism, we are cleansed of all sin by virtue of the death and Resurrection of Jesus. â€œBy his stripes we are healed.â€ (Isaiah 53:5)
Â· Death to Life: the waters of the Flood and the Red Sea. The ancients feared the sea because of the Flood stories and the power of it. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea from slavery to freedom, but the Egyptians perished when the same sea washed over them. In the early Church (and some parishes today), those to be baptized are laid completely under the water for Baptism, symbolizing the grave (death). When they rise up out of the water, they are a new creation, resurrected like Jesus Christ. â€œAre you not aware that you who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?â€ (Romans 6:3). â€œYou must consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive for God in Christ Jesus.â€ (Romans 6:11). In Baptism, the baptized receives virtues from the Holy Spirit. For those truly willing, the virtues grow and fill the person baptized as they mature in Faith and Love.
Â· Children of the Church: the waters of birth. A child spends months in the waters of the motherâ€™s womb and is born amid a rush of water. Similarly, we are born into the Church through a Baptism of water (usually). Just as in a family, some enter in without water, those who die while preparing for Baptism (catechumen) or those unbaptized persons who die for Christ (martyrs) are considered baptized by virtue of their desire or blood. Baptism marks (or seals) a person for life as one of Godâ€™s children through the Church. Baptism cannot be undone, and the Church recognizes the baptisms performed by any Christian Church that does so â€œIn the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (or Ghost).â€ However, it is possible for a baptized person to lose the graces received, and to â€œsoil the baptismal garment.â€ The Catholic Church believes that a baptized person still has free will, and may reject Godâ€™s Love even to the point of being forever alienated from God.
Â· Commitment: the waters from Jesusâ€™ side. In chapter 7 of Judges, the Lord chooses the best soldiers to save Israel by means of water. Only the watchful, alert soldiers were allowed into battle against the invading Midianites. Baptism (or acceptance into the Catholic communion) is a commitment to live as a Catholic Christian. It is a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a commitment to the Mass, community, prayer, and to the â€œinstruction of the apostles.â€ (Acts 2:42). When Jesus was dead on the cross, a soldier thrust a spear into his side and blood and water flowed out. Baptism is a commitment to carry our cross, die to ourselves and take our place in the Church Militant, next to our brothers and sisters. This cannot be done halfway, picking and choosing which doctrines we will live and support. It is all or nothing.
Please share about the following in your groups:
Â· How do you feel about the above views of Baptism? Do any of these frighten you? Excite you? Can you live with them? For those already baptised, what about the above is new to you?
Â· At Baptism, you receive a white garment that symbolizes your new life, free from sin. If you are not yet baptized, share your feelings about this new life. If already baptized, have you kept your garment unstained? If you have failed, has this reduced your pride? Remember that pride is considered the worst of the seven deadly sins, and the root of all the rest.
Â· To be accepted into the Catholic Church, we must be willing to obey and support the Churchâ€™s teachings as the teachings of Jesus. This is not to say we can never sin, but if we plan to support abortion, premarital/extramarital sex, untruth, greed or social injustices such as racial discrimination or hatred of immigrants, why become Catholic at all? Can you stand in confident support of all the Churchâ€™s teachings? Even when they conflict with what your family or education has done or taught you? Even if it means separation from those you love?