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Holy Baptism

A Word to the Parents from the Bishop

God has blessed you with the gift of a child, and you are now rightly considering his / her baptism.

It is by baptism that we are brought into the Christian Church; but baptism is not merely a formal enrolment, or the writing of a child’s name on the membership roll of the Church. Baptism is a sacrament and therefore its most important effects are spiritual. Through this Sacrament God gives the baptised child a great gift and blessing.

What is this gift and blessing? In the Gospel we read that mothers brought their children to Jesus Christ and that He took them up in His arms, laid His hands upon them and blessed them. At every baptism, Jesus Christ acting through the human hands of the priest, is the Baptiser. He receives the child into His Kingdom, and unites him / her to Himself, so that His life may begin to flow into the child just as the life of the vine flows into the branches of the vine. Just as a branch is grafted into a vine so by baptism we are joined to Jesus Christ.

God’s great gift in baptism then, is the life of Jesus Christ, and that is what we mean when we say that in baptism a child is made a member of Christ.

In the baptism Service, water which has been blessed is poured upon the child in the Name of God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; the child is then received ‘into the congregation of Christ’s flock’, and signed with the sign of the cross; and then the priest declares that he / she is now regenerated, or born again. He / she has been ‘born again of water and the Holy Spirit.’ He / she is a ‘child of God’ (Catechism).

Washing with water signifies cleansing from all sins. When adults are baptised, they often go down right under the water and then come up to be clothed in a new white robe. This means a death to sin and rising again to a new life of righteousness, even as our Lord died, and was buried, and rose again, that He might save us from sin and from the power of sin, and might give us new life in union with Himself.

Every human being is born into a world which is tainted with sin. By baptism a child is cleansed and joined to Christ. He / she receives the Holy Spirit and is born into the new life of grace in the Catholic Church (Universal Church). He / she is made ‘an inheritor of the Kingdom of heaven.’ Here is the wonderful blessing given by God in Holy Baptism.

Such a great blessing is naturally accompanied by great responsibility, which is expressed in the promises made on behalf of the child by the godparents:

  1. They renounce the devil, all kinds of sin and worldliness
  2. They promise to believe the full Christian Faith
  3. They promise obedience to the law of God

This is a most serious undertaking. Its meaning for the child is shown by signing with the sign of the cross immediately after he / she is baptised, a token that hereafter he / she shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight under His banner against sin, the world and the devil; and to continue as Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his / her life’s end.

Why do we do all this for a mere infant? Firstly, because God cares for all His children; and then, because the blessings of His Covenant are for all; and they are freely given – no one could possibly earn them. So God first gives His great blessing to the infant, and then accepts our promises (particularly the godparents) that the child will be taught his / her responsibility as he / she grows up.

You see how much depends on you? In baptism a seed of spiritual life is sown, as it were. You naturally feel responsible for your child’s healthy development in body and mind; but you are all responsible for his/her spiritual growth, at least until he / she is old enough to take on himself / herself the solemn promises made at baptism; and this he / she will, at his / her confirmation.

He / she has therefore, to learn from you what to believe, what to practice, and what to shun. For the best lesson is to be a good example; but he/she needs also to learn how to say his/ her prayers, how to read the Bible, and how to worship in church. If he/she sees that you are careless about these things, who can blame him/ her if he/she too is careless? But God will not hold you guiltless.

I trust you intend to fulfil your part faithfully, and to model your home on that blessed home in Nazareth; so that like the Child Jesus, your child too may grow ‘in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and human beings.

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