I had written this, with the intention of explaining infant baptism, and why we have this in the Catholic church. Then, I opened a Catholic newsletter this morning to be reminded that this is the feast of Jesus’ baptism. What more opportune of a time to publish a blog entry about baptism, and its place in the church than on the feast day.
For Catholics, baptism is the washing away of original sin, and rebirth into Christ. It is gaining a new identity in Christ, and becoming a child of God through rebirth. Jesus told Nichodemus that in order to have eternal life, he must be reborn with water and fire. As Catholics, we take quite a bit of criticism from some of our Protestant counter parts for infant baptism. They complain that a baby is too young to accept Christ.
So why do we baptize our babies? Quite a few Saints were baptized as newborns, just hours after birth. Their parents cared so very deeply for their souls that after being born into our world of flesh, the first thing their parents wanted to do was have them born into Christ’s family. They are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Their original sin, the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, are washed away. Their disobedience is like a deadly bacteria for the soul we are infected with from birth, and baptism is the antibiotic that washes it away. The child’s parents promise to raise that baby to know God, and to love and follow him always. Once baptized, it can never be undone. This is especially important for parents who’s child is at risk of dying after birth. That way the child escapes any time in purgatory because the inherited sin is gone, and there is no personal sin.
At today’s mass, Father used the movie the Lion King to demonstrate the importance of baptism. His illustration of this was that at the beginning of the movie, after baby Simba is marked, he is lifted up and presented to the rest of the animal kingdom where they bow in reverence to this new member of the family. When a baby is baptized, they are also held up and presented to all present to admire this new member of the family.
Also, consider that baptism is a Christian tradition that was started by St. John the Baptist, brought to recognition by Jesus being baptized, and is continued as a necessity in Christian life. The Jewish tradition was circumcision, and Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day. Though there are some Christians out there that circumcise their sons, there is no requirement for it in the Bible, however, Jesus did hand down to us baptism. Not only in actions by receiving it, but in word.
In the gospel, St. John the Baptist gave us baptism by water, and he is the one that baptized our Lord at his request. St. John was a prophet sent by God to prepare the way for the son. Before this, and before Jesus’ we had the destination of Hell. There were the few select that were righteous enough to escape and go directly to Heaven, possibly not even having to die.
Another point that Father made was to elaborate on the theme of water in baptism. One example he used was when Simba had run away, he was led back and shown that his father was alive, in him. When look in the water (there it is again) he could see not only his reflection, but his father there. Through baptism, God is reflected in us.