I pray that all are doing well as you deal with the Novel Coronavirus. On Wednesday, April 22, I will begin a six-week class on the sacraments. Since the first class will deal with Baptism and Confirmation this article will cover Baptism. This article is based on two audiences of Pope Francis dealing with Baptism, one on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 and the other on Wednesday, January 15, 2014.
In his first audience the Pope stated, “Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church.” Together Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist configure us to the Lord and “turns us into a living sign of his presence and his love.” The Pope then quotes Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). The Pope states that “We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.”
The Pope then asked all who were in St. Peter’s Square that day how many of them remembered the date of their baptism. He invited them to go home and find out the date of their Baptism. He told them that each day they are to live out the hope of their Baptism.
The final point of the Pope in his first presentation was that no one can baptize him or herself. We always need someone else to baptize us. Throughout history there is an ongoing chain of baptisms through which the faith has been passed on. In Baptism we experience the Church as a mother who gives birth to new children in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Pope began his second presentation by reminding those present that in Baptism we are made members of the Body of Christ and are incorporated into the People of God. “In the school of the Second Vatican Council, we say today that Baptism allows us to enter the People of God, to become members of a People on a journey, a people on pilgrimage through history.”
From generation to generation, through rebirth at the baptismal font, grace is transmitted, and through this grace the Christian People journey through time. From the time of Jesus until today there has been a transmission of faith through Baptism. We, the baptized are a link in the chain of grace through which the faith has been carried forward throughout history. Through Baptism we become members of the People of God which journeys and hands down the faith.
The Pope next indicated that through baptism we become missionary disciples called to bring the Gospel to the world. He next quoted the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “’All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization…The new evangelization calls for personal involvement’…from everyone, the whole People of God.” The Pope stated that all members of the Church are disciples because they are called to receive the faith and all members of the Church are called to be missionaries because they are called to transmit the faith.
In speaking of the truth that “No one is saved by himself.” the Pope states that while the love of God precedes us all, at the same time we are called to be “channels” of grace for one another. The truth that the Church is a community of believers is an integral part of Christian life, of witness and evangelization.
The Pope ends his second presentation by speaking of the importance of Baptism for the Christian community of Japan. The Christians of Japan suffered great persecution at the start of the 17th century. At that time many members of the clergy were expelled and thousands of the faithful were killed. In time there were no priests left in Japan. The Christian community retreated into hiding. When a child was born, the mother and father would baptize the child. Missionaries returned to Japan after 250 years and found thousands of Christians. The Church had survived through the grace of Baptism and it was now able to flourish again. Through Baptism they had been one Body in Christ.
May God continue to bless and protect each of you and your families.