A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being in attendance for the baptism of my nephew’s son, Jack. There was a special feeling in the air and everyone was in a great mood. The atmosphere was so festive that even someone who knew nothing about baptism would probably be able to deduce that something really good was taking place.
As I sat there, an interesting thought occurred to me. Even though I understand the sacrament of baptism, do I really appreciate it?
The next day, I pulled my copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church off the shelf and opened to the section on baptism. As I read through the material, I became increasingly energized and enthused. I may have understood the main effects of the sacrament, but I definitely needed this refresher course.
The very first paragraph in the section reminded me of something I may have been taking for granted. My entire Christian life, including numerous encounters with Jesus in the sacraments, is made possible through baptism!
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission. (CCC 1213)
Sometimes we question the need for baptizing infants. Maybe we should wait until they can decide for themselves, better appreciate what is taking place or have more serious sins under their belt. The Catechism addressed the benefits of infant baptism in a powerful way. Reading these words increased my gratitude for the tremendous gift given to me by my parents, when they had me baptized shortly after I was born.
Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth. (CCC 1250)
On the surface, the rite of baptism can seem somewhat ordinary, but that is hardly the case. There is much more going on than meets the eye.
We may have been in and out of the church in less than an hour, but several powerful things took place. When he was baptized, my nephew’s son was purified from the effects of original sin, became an adopted son of God and received the Holy Spirit!
Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1265)
He also officially became a member of the Body of Christ, the church:
Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: “Therefore … we are members one of another.” Baptism incorporates us into the Church. (CCC 1267)
In addition, he received a special gift from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification: enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues; giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. (CCC 1266)
Finally, in addition to everything else, this little guy was now able to enter God’s kingdom (CCC 1215) and live forever in heaven. All of this was made possible because my nephew and his wife loved their son enough to have him baptized.
For many years, I failed to appreciate the importance of my own baptism and overlooked the great gift given to me by my parents. Attending this baptism and doing some research has certainly opened my eyes and given me a new appreciation for what took place in my own life many years ago.
When I was carried into St. John Cantius Parish in July 1959, I had no idea of what was taking place, but I do now. I’m grateful to my parents for making it possible. I’m also grateful to Jesus for instituting the sacrament, the Father for adopting me and the Holy Spirit for coming to live in me.
You know what else I’m grateful for? I’m grateful that I got to experience this amazing event. I hope to never again underestimate the power of baptism. Even though he’s still a baby, Jack really opened my eyes. Thanks, little guy. Welcome to the family!
Gary Zimak is a best-selling author, speaker and radio host based in South Jersey. Connect with him online at FollowingTheTruth.com.
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