The Sacrament of Baptism is the first step in a lifelong journey of commitment and discipleship. Whether we are baptized as infants or adults, Baptism is the Church's way of celebrating and enacting the embrace of God.
Jesus himself showed the importance of the baptism rite by submitting to His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. This shows us that this rite involves all three persons of God in the Son being baptized, The Father speaking and the Holy Spirit descending. Also throughout the gospels Jesus calls on us to be baptized and do His work. In John 3:5 in speaking to Nicodemus "Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And in Matthew 28: 19 He calls us to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
Why do we baptize infants?
The Catholic Church has always held that Christ's law applies to infants as well as adults. Obviously, infants cannot understal1d the meaning and comnlitment of Baptism; how-ever their parents can understand and live those values and pass them on to their children.
When an infant is baptized, the Rite of Baptism emphasizes the importance of faithfulness on the part of parents when the celebrant charges and prays over the parents: " ... May God bless the father of this cllild. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord."
So we can more easily understand the meaning of what is happening to us, every sacrament uscs physical signs and rituals to express our experience of God and His grace in our lives. The symbols you see at a Baptism ceremony include the following:
- The Sign of the Cross is traced on the forehead of the one being baptized. This ritual action expresses that the mystery of the cross is at the heart of our faith.
- The sprinkling on of water to renlind us that we die with Jesus to conquer sin and rise with him so we might center into new life. Water has always played an important role in the Bible. Water here reminds us of the total cleansing of the world through Noah's great blood; how Moses led the Hebrews on their escape from Egypt and how he parted the waters of the Red Sea as the gateway to liberation, away from slavery and into the Promised Land; and Jesus' death in the blood and water that flowed from His pierced side and Resurrection, which free us from sin and bring us to a new way of living.
- The words of Baptism, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," are spoken while the water is poured on the head of the one to be baptized. These words reveal that God in the Trinity is both the source of life and our life's goal.
- The newly baptized is anointed with sacred oil. This rescinds us the Holy Spirit now dwells within the heart of this new Christian. Just as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King we al'e now called to live and love as a member of His body.
- A white garment reflects that through Baptism we "put on Christ," in all His purity and take our new and truest identity as a son or daughter of God.
- A baptismal candle, lit from the Pascal candle, represents the one true light of Christ, a constant light to guide the new believer throughout his or her life.
Baptism is truly an appropriate initiation into our faith. It washes away original sin and its effects, gives us a new identity in Christ Jesus, connects LIS to a new community of believers, and provides a clear mission in life.