Jesusí baptism and our baptism, what is the significance of each one?

Jesusí baptism took place in the Jordan River, done by John the Baptizer, with water, as an expression of belief that the Messiah would come. Jesusí baptism includes one of only a half-dozen explicit gospel references to the Trinity. Notice that the Father and the Holy Spirit are present when Jesus is baptized. Interestingly, the gospel reads: "John tried to prevent Jesus saying, ĎI need to be baptized by youí." But John yielded to Jesusí will. Johnís baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River represents the first of the Luminous Mysteries, which shed light on Jesusí mission and the mystery of our lives.

Our baptisms, probably for most of us, took place as infants, in the presence of parents and/or godparents, by water and the Holy Spirit, by a priest or maybe a deacon, who called down the Trinity as we were blessed "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Our baptism took place physically inside a church, and sacramentally in the Catholic Church; we were welcomed into the Christian community. Our relationship with God is not simply "God and me." Our relationship with God necessarily includes the Church which Jesus founded, and all humankind whom Jesus came to save. Think big, think broadly with regards to our baptism. Today is Vocation Sunday. Our first vocation is our Christian vocation, and living well our baptismal vows.

When Christian evangelicals ask us Catholics, "when were you born-again?" we respond confidently, "at baptism, we were reborn in Christ Jesus and in the Church that Jesus founded." This first of the seven sacraments celebrates that divine life enters into each baptized Christian, Catholic and non-Catholic. At creation, each person is gifted with the image of God; and at baptism, each person becomes gifted with the active interior grace of Godís power. At birth, Godís image dwells within us; and at baptism, Godís life, love, power, grace move within us. This grace stirs into action the image with which we were created. We become reborn in Christ Jesus. As St. Paul says of committed Christians, "it is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ lives within me."

Christians, Catholics, ponder this mystery of image and action: you have been created in the image and likeness of God, and by the power of God you can grow in that image. You grow closer to God; you grow in holiness. Please do not sell yourself short by limiting your vision of human life to your humanness. Rather expand your vision of life by appreciating that Godís divine life lives within you. Ponder your baptism whereby you actively grow in reflecting Godís image, by the grace of God. The love of God within you seeks to burst forth outside you. Love has to express itself.

A few practical details about infant baptism. First, the priest baptizer needs to have a reasonable expectation that the child will be brought up Catholic. If mom and dad come to Church every Sunday, the priest has full confidence. If mom and dad donít go to Church, but the grandparents do and promise to raise the child Catholic, then that satisfies most priests. If the priest has never or rarely seen the parents at church, he may ask the parents to begin coming to church every Sunday for a few months to demonstrate their desire to raise their child in the Catholic faith. Many times, the miracle of the birth of a child motivates parents to come back to church. Second, one of the two godparents needs to be a practicing Catholic. All Catholic parishes require that the pastor of the godparent candidate sign a document declaring that the godparent candidate is a practicing member of the local parish. I am always happy to sign that document. At times, I am saddened when I must refuse to sign that document for godparent candidates because I rarely if ever see them at Sunday Mass. Third, parents, please consider giving your child a Christian name for his/her baptismal name. It may be either the first or second name. Names help to give us identity and roots. Saintsí names provide wonderful examples of lived Christian virtue. My name is Vincent. From when I was a child in grade school, St. Vincent de Paul served as a model for me. St. Vincent was someone I looked up to for example and encouragement on how to live a happy and holy Christian life. One caution, parents, please be careful about naming your child after a sports hero, or soap opera star, or a movie celebrity. Fame is fleeting. What lasting example do these people give to your child? Choose a name which not only sounds nice, but also points to a nice person. Let your childís baptismal name provide a lifelong model of Christian living.

Today, friends of Congressman Henry Hyde are present in the congregation. The congressman died six weeks ago, at the end of November. He came from Illinois, and served in the House of Representatives for over thirty years. Born and raised a Catholic, his Catholic faith guided his private and public life. Always a gentleman, he respected his Congressional colleagues regardless of their party affiliation. Renowned for fairness, he chaired the House Judiciary Committee. Perhaps he is most famous for the Hyde Amendment which prohibited federal funding for abortions. Profoundly pro-life, he chose to do not what was popular but what was right and moral. How appropriate that we pray for him at Mass today as we stand on the verge of recognizing the 35th anniversary of the nefarious Roe vs. Wade decision. Before Henry Hyde died, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor a president can bestow on a citizen. Henry Hyde lived his baptismal promises: he promised and practiced the vows: Do you reject Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises? Yes. Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and his only Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the holy Catholic Church? Yes.

May we reflect on and repeat in word and deed our baptismal promises; being Christian is our first vocation. And rejoice because of the divine image and divine life which moves within you. And we thank God for the wonderful example of Christ-like living given to us by the saints and people like Congressman Henry Hyde.

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