Baptism is Just the Beginning
“For all the baptized faith must grow after Baptism.” –CCC, paragraph 1254
One of the greatest gifts that Pope St. John Paul II gave to the Church in the markedly confusing aftermath of the Second Vatican Council was the gift of clear and definitive teaching of Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Although it was a monumental project that involved a team of writers and editors, it was the Polish pontiff’s initiative and courage as a teacher of truth that led him to promulgate the second edition of the Catechism in 1997. Sadly, far too many copies of the Catechism sit unread in libraries and on bookcases in homes. My favorite description of the Catechism is as the architectonic structure and shape of Catholicism on full display. Perhaps these paragraphs from the Catechism that touch on Christ’s Baptism—and our own—might whet your appetite to set aside some time to study your faith in this new year.
1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word."
1223 All the Old Covenant prefigurations find their fulfillment in Christ Jesus. He begins his public life after having himself baptized by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. After his resurrection Christ gives this mission to his apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
1224 Our Lord voluntarily submitted himself to the baptism of St. John, intended for sinners, in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus' gesture is a manifestation of his self-emptying. The Spirit who had hovered over the waters of the first creation descended then on the Christ as a prelude of the new creation, and the Father revealed Jesus as his "beloved Son."
1225 In his Passover Christ opened to all men the fountain of Baptism. He had already spoken of his Passion, which he was about to suffer in Jerusalem, as a "Baptism" with which he had to be baptized. The blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus are types of Baptism and the Eucharist, the sacraments of new life. From then on, it is possible "to be born of water and the Spirit" in order to enter the Kingdom of God. “See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from his death. There is the whole mystery: he died for you. In him you are redeemed, in him you are saved.
1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: "What do you ask of God's Church?" The response is: "Faith!"
1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.
1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents' help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium). The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.
1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.
1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
- enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
- giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
- allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: "Therefore . . . we are members one of another." Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."
1269 Having become a member of the Church, the person baptized belongs no longer to himself, but to him who died and rose for us. From now on, he is called to be subject to others, to serve them in the communion of the Church, and to "obey and submit" to the Church's leaders, holding them in respect and affection. Just as Baptism is the source of responsibilities and duties, the baptized person also enjoys rights within the Church: to receive the sacraments, to be nourished with the Word of God and to be sustained by the other spiritual helps of the Church.
The full text of the Catechism is also available online at www.vatican.va
The above are just a sampling from one small section of the Catechism. Each paragraph is a rich treasure trove of truth. I encourage you to commit in this new year to some real study of the Faith. Check out Symbolon for free on www.Formed.org using our parish code PBGWTD. Consider attending some of our Family Faith Formation offerings on Wednesday evenings or Fr. Hagan’s Introduction to Catholic Christianity on Sunday afternoons. Watch for other opportunities yet to come.
Having passed through my second Christmas season here in Northeast at Holy Cross, St. Clement and St. Hedwig, I am exceedingly grateful for the outpouring of your encouragement, support and prayer. It is a season to share good tidings. The swirl of Christmas cards, greetings, cookies and treats remind us that this is a season for sharing and savoring graces (and sweets). This season—not unexpectedly—has been exhausting, enlivening and exhilarating all at once. I continue to thank the Lord for having sent me to serve here with Fr. Hagan, Fr. Stan, Fr. Jaspers and Deacon John Belian. I am thankful I can slip away for my annual silent retreat this week. O blessed silence! Please pray for me, as I will for you.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which serves as a final culmination of the Christmas season and simultaneously launches us back into Ordinary Time as a season for growth in knowledge of the Faith. Here's looking forward to our continued growth in faith, hope and love in 2019!
Yours in Christ,