The Character of Baptism
The significance of St. John the Baptist in our history of salvation is that he heralded the coming of Christ by proclaiming a baptism of repentance. His baptism is the forerunner of our Christian baptism which gives us the Christian life. Baptism leaves an indelible mark in the soul of the baptized, which we refer to as the baptismal character. Baptism characterizes the baptized, setting us apart, giving us the mandate to share with others the faith we have received. We are marked with the sign of faith.
In our parish, baptisms are usually celebrated on Sundays within Mass. The sacrament is celebrated on the day the Christ rose from the dead and when the Church community assembles in worship and praise. It begins the process of integrating the baptized into the community which reaches its fulfillment when we share the Eucharist. Baptism is the first step of a three-step process of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist which are also referred to as the Sacraments of Initiation. It is in the Eucharist (at Mass) that we share full communion with the Church.
Baptism, through the renewal of our baptismal promises, reminds us that we shape our lives by the choices we make. The renewal of our baptismal promises gives us the opportunity to reflect on the direction of our lives and to strengthen our resolve to be Christians. The words of the rite are richly symbolic. They ask us to choose between slavery to sin and the freedom of being God’s children, between darkness and light, between the glamour of evil and the simplicity of truth. Ultimately, they ask us to choose between Satan and Christ.
We often refer to baptism as a christening which means joining to Christ. Through baptism we are united to Christ. We become Christians, members of the Church. The original meaning of the word “Christ” is anointed one. In the Scriptures, someone chosen for a special role such as priest, prophet or king was anointed with a fragrant olive oil. When the followers of Jesus eventually recognized him as the Messiah, they began to call him Christ, which means God’s anointed one. In baptism, we are also anointed with Holy Chrism to express our unity with Christ and to show that we are called to share in Christ’s work as priest, prophet and king.