Celebrating Baptism

This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the recognition of the day upon which John baptized Jesus Christ. It is also the end of the Christmas season.

By now most of us have taken down the Christmas tree, packed away the decorations and unfortunately it is likely a toy or two has already been broken or forgotten about. I would even venture to say that many of our New Year’s resolutions are becoming harder to follow. We are faced with the cold bleak days of winter without much to look forward to other than spring and the coming of Easter. Not what one may consider a very welcoming time of year.

Yet, today we hear about the very welcoming and blessed event of Baptism. Baptism is a time when one is welcomed into the family of the Catholic Church. It is a most joyous and exciting event at complete odds to what we may think of as the end of Christmas.

Most of us have been privileged to participate in this sacrament just by attending a Mass when one is celebrated. Now I know that some of you are reading this and thinking: Privilege? Participate? Are you crazy? We sit there and it just makes Mass that much longer!! Yes, Mass is a bit longer but we get to be there as we welcome this person into our wonderful family. What a true honor that is. Chances are we may not know this individual, most likely an infant, but we can extend a warm and loving welcome to his or her family. As a family we can all help and support the parents and godparents as they face the long road ahead of raising their child in the light of Christ.

During the rite of Baptism the congregation is asked to reject sin and to deny those actions which separate us from Christ. Hopefully we all answer loudly and to the affirmative. By rejecting sin and negative actions we open ourselves to the grace and light of Christ. We acknowledge the dignity of all and live in His love. At the end of the rite a candle is lit and a white garment is placed on the child. It is a beautiful sign of receiving the light of Christ.

Baptism is not however just a quick event we go through and then put on a shelf. What we do with that love given to us is a defining action of who we are as children of God. It is our responsibility to take that light and bring it into the darkness. We are challenged to give this light and love to others, to recognize the dignity in each and every human. Obviously a small child is not capable of understanding this, and we, as his or her church family, must guide and support this person as they grow. By example we can demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, thus helping each and every one of us to grow and develop a closer loving relationship with our Lord. If we really think about it, isn’t that what a family does: love and support each other?

I have been very blessed to be one of the godparents to several of my nieces. It has been truly an honor and one that I don’t take lightly. At one of the Baptisms, the priest mentioned a very simple but lovely gesture to acknowledge this event. Each year on the date of their Baptism he suggested sending a card or some other small memento to recognize this welcoming into the church. We all receive birthday cards but how many of us receive Baptism cards? It is a great way to acknowledge and celebrate the great gift of the light of Christ.

Maybe the next time a Baptism is celebrated during Mass we can look at it a bit differently. We can participate and welcome this child of Christ. We can support and help this person grow and develop and in doing so we will enrich our own lives. After all we are all one family and we have the responsibility to share His light.

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