When I was a young boy, my favorite visits were to my godfather, who was a close friend of my Dad, because every time I went to his shop, he’d always give me a gift. It was always pleasant because I’d see and feel his excitement every time I see him. He’d always ask me about how I’m doing and is always proud of my achievements in school. I could also see the closeness between him, his wife and my parents and so it made me think of their closeness as a possible standard for which godparents must be measured. Aside from that, my godfather was a religious person who I would also see in Church during Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. He was a model worth emulating.
It is said that the first major event in a Christian’s life is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Parents usually prepare well considering that this event initiates a child or an individual’s life with God. A godfather and godmother are selected, and a party, whether grand or simple, is prepared where the family and friends gather after the ceremony is done. Normally, this is done shortly after birth, in order to ensure that the child obtains the priceless grace of becoming a child of God. Neglecting this function denies the child such grace. Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children need 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.
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door that 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: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
This Sunday the Gospel tells us that Our Lord, in beginning his public ministry, voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ gesture is a manifestation of his deep humility and self-emptying. The Spirit of God who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as His “beloved Son.” This passage in the Gospel tells us how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. His public ministry was about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. He is the Man-God. He is the God-Man.
After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This is a testament to the need for Baptism in the quest for salvation and redemption from sin.
From the very day of Pentecost, the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The apostles and other disciples offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,” St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer “was baptized at once, with all his family.”
All believers must understand that Baptism is the sacrament of faith.But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to maturity and development.
For all of us baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason Holy Mother Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. It is a ritual that is awaited every Lenten season. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.
In a few days, Pope Francis, the leader of the 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world, will be making his apostolic visit to the Philippines after Sri Lanka, as part of his Asian visit. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the life that Jesus lived is precisely what our beloved Pope Francis is determined to follow. To begin with, he decided not to live in the papal palace. The very symbolism of palace is un-Christlike. His program of governance will be focused on “a poor church for the poor.” He chose his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi who renounced his wealth, and lived and died for the sake of the poor. What a blessing for our country that he will be here!
In the days to come, let us offer prayers that may Jesus baptism remind us to follow His example of deep faith and total obedience to God. May our own baptism remind us of our rich heritage and dignity as sons and daughters of the Father.May Pope Francis continue to inspire, not only Catholics and Christians, but all peoples of a weary world.