Baptism of the Lord, Year C
Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
When John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance, people rushed to him in great numbers to be baptized. Jesus himself ratified John's baptism by asking to be baptized by John at the Jordan River.
However, John's baptism was not the sacrament of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. John's baptism was only a shadow of the sacrament of baptism, which Jesus would establish later on for the forgiveness of sins.
Today on the feast of baptism of the Lord, let us reflect on the parental responsibility when we bring our children to the water of baptism. Through baptism, we became the new chosen people of God, not through blood descent from Abraham, but through rebirth in the life of grace. Also through baptism, we became God's adopted children. We were allowed to call God our Father. Baptism is a covenant we made with God through our parents and godparents. Parents and godparents made the profession of faith which we, children would ratify in later years. Parents play an important role in bringing their children to the water of baptism, because they themselves asked to have their children baptized. Parents asked for faith for their children who are not mature enough to express.
Thus, we can say children are baptized in the faith of their parents and godparents.
At the beginning part of the Rite of baptism for Children, the priest celebrant asks the parents: You have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so, you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking? . It was because of the importance of baptism that sometimes some priests delay to baptize children, if they do not see any sign that children would grow in a faith atmosphere. Bishop Elden F. Curtis of Helena wrote in his diocesan newspaper: The very least we should require for infant baptism is the willingness of parents and godparents to share their faith and participation in the Christian community with their children. Anything less reduces this sacrament of initiation to an empty gesture and meaningless sign pointing nowhere .
Before pouring the water of baptism, the priest invites the parents and godparents to profess faith in God: You must make it your constant care to bring them up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life, which God gives them, is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts . Some parents reason that they do not want to exert influence on their young children as far as faith is concerned. They want their children to decide on what religion to follow when they grow up. The contradiction here is if their parents name their children, teach them speak their mother's tongue, and teach them to observe the family tradition, so why not teach them about their faith.
Survey shows if children go to catholic schools, or to public schools and take religious education at church on Sunday until grade 12, and later on if, they wander away from the practice of faith, they will come back to God through the church. That is good news to hear. If any of us has children of that category, just keep hope and pray for our children. To realize their importance of learning catechism, the American bishops have made the study of catechism a precept of the Church. The third precept of the Church in America reads: To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation in order to be confirmed, and then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ. In baptism, parents and godparents promise to educate their children in the faith, so that their children could ratify it when they grow up.
In order for their children to ratify their faith at baptism, parents need to teach and to set good examples. How can their children ratify their faith if they are not taught, guided and given an opportunity? That is the question, which St Paul pointed out to us when he wrote:
How can people believe unless they have heard of God?
How can they hear, unless there is someone to preach?
How can men preach, unless they are sent (Rom 10:14-15)?
A prayer for persevering in faith:
O Lord, my God! I thank you for the faith I received at baptism
through my parents and godparents.
Forgive me for the times I did not put my faith into practice
and the times I hardened my heart, not seeking the light of faith,
Neglecting to study catechism of the Church,
Not seeking assistance from those who have strong faith
To help strengthen and develop my faith in you.
Renew my faith in your Word and your power
so that I may be assured to go forward in the light of truth. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
Rite of baptism for Children, # 39
Newspaper of the Diocese of Helena, January issues of 1978.
Rite of Baptism for Children, # 56