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Baptism



Your life, my life, every human life is a supreme gift from God. All other forms of earthly life is created by God to sustain human life, so that every human person might turn to God in Christ and be filled with God’s saving grace – the sanctifying grace received at Baptism.

I can remember when my Mom placed my hand on her stomach when her little baby kicked. New life! We snuggled up to her and she would softly sing to calm the baby within her. Those loving moments, those quiet moments of anticipation and peace truly had an Advent feel to them.

Then I remember my Mom and Dad happily bringing home my little brother. They named him Matthew, after the Apostle Matthew who wrote the first Gospel Book. He was so small and frail. He was dependent upon my parents faithfulness for his life and salvation.

I remember the day he was baptized. My entire family was there to celebrate. It was then that God adopted him into his divine family, the Church. It was at that moment original sin was cleansed from his soul and the Holy Spirit entered to plant the divine seeds of faith, hope and love.

In today’s Gospel we hear that John the Baptist had a Baptism of repentance. People came to him to confess their sins and to be baptized in the Jordan River. But John’s baptism used water only, and it did not take away original sin. He was preparing the Jewish people to receive Jesus Christ, his cousin, as the Messiah.

John spoke clearly that the anticipated Messiah would baptize with water and the Holy Spirit. This is the Baptism that Jesus Christ authorized since he is God, and he can send the Holy Spirit through the rite of baptism to cleanse original sin from the soul, and plant the divine virtues of faith, hope and love. After the gift of life, the greatest gift God gives us is Baptism, since we receive the beginning of supernatural life with God in Jesus Christ. We then have the capacity to call God our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord and brother, and Mary our Mother within the family of God, the Catholic Church. As in any family, a child grows through food, instruction, and medical assistance, and learns how to serve God and the community. So too, the child’s soul grows in divine virtues in the Church family by being instructed by the Word of God, feeds on the Holy Eucharist when prepared, and is healed through the absolution of their sins in the Sacrament of Confession. By studying and practicing the faith, the child learns how to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation in order to contribute to the Church community with lasting love and service. The child grows in happiness as they learn how to promote and defend their Catholic Christian faith, of whom Jesus Christ is the divine leader.

But some day, life will end. I experienced watching my grandparents drift away from this life to the next. I had great hope that they were on their way to the fullness of heaven, but I wished that they did not have to go so soon.

I experienced my relatives’ joy when they were expecting a baby, but then I heard that the baby died in the mother’s womb. What happens to those babies? In faith and love we entrust those children to God, and hope that their parents were desiring their child to be baptized.

God and his Catholic Church understand the difference between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus Christ, and they also teach that baptism can occur outside the ordinary rite of baptism.

In other words, there are extraordinary ways for a person to be baptized. In the early Church some people died while preparing for baptism. The Church has hope that the person was baptized by their desire, thus it is called, “baptism by desire.”

Some people were martyred before being baptized, and the Church recognizes that as a “baptism through blood.” That’s reasonable since they had firmly decided to be disciples of Jesus Christ who poured out his blood that he might save his followers who persevere in the faith.

At an ordinary Catholic baptism, with water and the Holy Spirit by a minister, the baby is too young to decide to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, so at least one parent and one godparent must both be practicing the Catholic faith to provide an example of faith, hope and love for the child. The priest also must have firm hope that the child will be raised in the Catholic faith before he can administer the Sacrament in the Name of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church.

Let us continue to grow in God’s gift of divine faith, hope and love so as to join the angelic choirs in heaven where the fullness of life and love is illuminated by God for his holy family the Church. Amen.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. McCabe

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