Each year about 1,000,000 infants are baptized into the Catholic faith. An additional 80,000 adults are baptized and 100,000 adults are received into full communion with the Church.
For these 1 million infants … like for the vast majority of all of us …. baptism is something we “remember” because of photographs [perhaps video] and family stories. We have no actual memories of our baptisms. On the other hand, for the 80,000 adults baptized each year and for the 100,000 received into full communion — usually at the Easter Vigil — this entry into the Church and a relationship with Jesus is an event, an experience. For most of these adults, entry into the Church is not only something they remember, it also represents a moment when they made a choice — when they did something, expressed something, chose something “different” from they had or were before.
As we recall the baptism of Jesus — and the beginning of his public ministry — we all have a chance to re-affirm our baptism and to ask, “what does it mean to be a baptized Christian/Catholic?”
What would it mean to us if we were never baptized? What difference do we think it would be for us today — to know that we were not baptized … “UN”-baptized. Would we want to be baptized? Would we seek baptism? Hmmm … if we answer yes, then we must believe that baptism means something ….. what then, does it mean?
We might say that at baptism we got something — privileges. And, at baptism, we were asked to give/share something — responsibilities.
What privileges did we get? Well, we got the promise of eternal life … we got the promise that when we die, the doors of eternal life [heaven] would be open to us. In itself, that is a lot, perhaps enough. To symbolize this gift, this privilege, at the funeral rite, the coffin is sprinkled with holy water, recalling the waters of baptism. Baptized into Jesus, we share in a likeness of his death, and so we will share in a likeness of his resurrection.
Another “thing” that we get, is the knowledge that Jesus is with us and within us … as a friend, as a power. As adopted children of the Father, we become sister/brother with Jesus. We are never alone. He is with us always.
Thirdly, we are baptized into a community of faith. We become members of a body, a family. We have others like us … and unlike us …. with whom we share a destiny. We journey through this life, not as a lonely warrior, but as part of a people.
Fourthly, we can recall the gifts of the Spirit that come to us through Confirmation …. wisdom, knowledge, courage, understanding ….
And, we are called, through baptism …. to give … to share … to accept responsibilities.
1. To witness to the faith — to call others to Jesus through the example of our lives. If we believe so strongly that what we have is good, then we want others to have it to, we want them to come to Jesus. This call is best issued not with words, but with example. If people see in us something good, then they will want it too.
2. To assist others in need … as Jesus came into the world to support others … we become the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. This is the point at which the so-called “rubber hits the road” — our faith becomes real and tangible. We work, we volunteer, we take part in an effort to build up the world.
3. Because of sacramental belonging, we engage in the mission of Jesus. We spread light in places of darkness. We offer good even when others are not so intent on doing good. We accept others without distinction. We bring selfless love into places of selfishness. We accept others who are usually rejected by “the in crowd.”
As we have celebrated the birth of Jesus … today is a time for us to celebrate our life in Jesus through baptism. Today is a time for us to recall that we are one with Jesus … in life and in work. Who I am, what I am has been changed by my baptism. I am not a mere human, I am a child of God … one of the beloved. My life is not aimless … it has a purpose. I am destined to live in heaven … while I am on earth, I am to be with others on this same path.
Here are the words of the hymn, “I want to walk as a Child of the Light”:
I want to walk as a child of the light. I want to follow Jesus. God set the stars to give light to the world. The star of my life is Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both a like. The Lamb is the light of the city of God. Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.
I want to see the brightness of God. I want to look at Jesus. Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path, And show me the way to the Father.
In him there is no darkness at all …..
I’m looking for the coming of Christ. I want to be with Jesus. When we have run with patience the race, we shall know the joy of Jesus.
In him there is no darkness at all ….