The Gifts of Our Baptism

One of the privileges of my ministry here at St. Peter’s is meeting with families as they are preparing to have their baby baptized. Many of these parents meet with me when the babies are first born. The parents have a wonderful mixture of awe regarding this beautiful gift they have received and total exhaustion of having a newborn in their home! We meet to help the parents have a better understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism; to help them understand what they are asking of the Church, of themselves, and of their child by coming to the Church and asking that their child be baptized.

“Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life… and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213).

As parents, when we have our children baptized, we are promising to raise them in our Catholic faith tradition— that through our words and actions, we will teach them and model for them what it means to live as a follower of Christ. This can be a challenge in our secular culture which doesn’t always appreciate or encourage the values of living the life of a Christian. But what better gift can we give our children?

Through Baptism, we are purified and born into the Holy Spirit. We become part of the Body of Christ and begin the process of being a fully initiated member of the Church. We receive an identity (Christian) and a mission (to share the Gospel message and continue the work of Christ). To live the Gospel message of love, respect and forgiveness on a daily basis requires strength and wisdom that we as human beings do not have without the help of the Holy Trinity and the help of the community of fellow Christians.

One of the many beautiful aspects of Baptism is that it recognizes we are created in God’s image; we are good. However, it acknowledges that we are also very human— every single one of us sins. We need each other and God to help us find forgiveness and strength to grow in goodness. Our Baptism is a gift that bestows upon us our welcoming into the Christian community. It is the gateway to the other sacraments of our faith, such as Reconciliation and Eucharist, which enable us to share in that forgiveness and strength. It is through this nourishment from God and others that we are able to go forth and continue to share the Gospel message—to
continue with and to strengthen the identity and mission given to us at our Baptism.

The “real life” pressures and frustrations of work, family, health, our own sinfulness, etc., can overwhelm us when we forget to turn to God and each other for help and support. We gather together on a regular basis to praise God and to receive the spiritual, emotional and sometimes even physical support of God and our community. This empowers us to face the challenges of our lives. Just as any family gathers to help each other through the rough times, to celebrate the good times, and to just be present to each other, we need to come together as God’s family to be there for each other. Being a member of the Body of Christ, does not mean that life is easy and that we won’t face obstacles—both internal and external. However, it does mean we don’t have to face these obstacles alone. As a community, we will not only survive but may grow due to hardships we face as individuals and as a group. This becomes possible when we remember the gift, the Grace, we are given at our Baptism.

I pray that we all open ourselves to the presence of God in our lives and to the support of one another. I hope that the next time we witness a Baptism or make the Sign of the Cross, we remember the gift that is being given to each of us in Baptism. I encourage and challenge all of us to live our lives with the identification of Christian and the mission of continuing the work of Christ—to live out that which we are called to in our Baptism.

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