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Father Muench Says...

Reflecting on the sacrament of baptism

January 12, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, let us consider baptism. Every time you walk into a Catholic Church, a Catholic has been taught to dip their fingers into the Holy Water font and bless themselves. This acts as a reminder of their baptism.

The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus that we celebrate at the end of the Christmas Season acts as a reminder to us of our own baptism also. This feast day also provides us with an important opportunity to dedicate ourselves once again to living our Christian life.

So, the sacrament of baptism is a time to realize that we are called, we are dedicated, we have a vocation. As a Catholic, my most important vocation is to be a disciple of Jesus. At my baptism, I answer Jesus’ call: “Come, follow me.” This is my vocation. This is the call to be a disciple of Jesus.

My Christian vocation is the call to be “the salt of the earth; to be the light of the world.” For me, Christianity is about how to live, not just about what to believe. Faith must be translated into action. As my friend, Catherine Doherty, would say, “Don’t bother proclaiming that you believe unless you act accordingly.”

We, Christians, have a very positive role to play in the world today. Never forget how much you have to offer; our world desperately needs all that we have to offer. As we read in the Gospel, we will discover that as a Christian we have a deeper and more authentic way of living our lives. Our Christian vocation causes us to have a vision of a higher and a purer life to rise before us. Living out our Christian vocation expands the possibilities of human love and courage. We are welcomed into a believing community. We are challenged to make that community better and more alive.

Today, as we consider our Baptismal vocation, let us consider the sacrament of baptism. The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus gives us a defining moment in the life of Jesus – the beginning of his public ministry. The Gospel tells us that at the baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist, that Jesus prayed, and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in a bodily form. The Father put his seal of approval on Jesus and on the mission he is about to begin.

Let us take a moment to remember the actual ceremony of our baptism. This ceremony is filled with so many important images that help us understand all that baptism should mean to us. We are given a name, as we are somebody, chosen and welcomed into the family of God’s people. We are signed with the Sign of the Cross, the mark of Christ’s love for us all.

Water is poured over us. Water is a symbol of cleansing. In baptism, we are cleansed of sins. Water is a symbol of life. We are given a share in the undying life of God.

Just as kings, prophets and priests are anointed with oil and marked out as God’s ministers to the community, we are anointed with the oil of chrism, so that we may be envoys of Christ in this world. We have a vocation. We are called to a ministry. We are called to make a difference in this world.

A white garment is offered as a sign of Christian dignity. A candle is lighted to demonstrate the precious light of faith.

From a spiritual point of view, baptism is the greatest thing that can happen to us. To be baptized is to be christened – made like Christ. It is a lifetime task to learn what it means to be a Christian and to grow into it.

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