As Christians, the sacrament of baptism places us on God’s team: We are all key players, and God is counting on us to lead the church to many victories over selfishness and sin in the world today.
St. Vincent Ferrer reminds us that “every baptized person should consider that it is in the womb of the Church where he is transformed from a child of Adam to a child of God.” If only more Christians were aware of this huge dignity and responsibility that we carry within our souls.
Let’s look at the symbols surrounding this beautiful sacrament.
These physical signs and rituals express invisible realities and deep truths about our faith.
1.) It begins with the sign of the cross, reminding us that the cross is truly at the heart of our faith.
2.) The immersion in water symbolizes we are dying with Jesus to conquer sin so as to rise with Him, entering into our new life as adopted sons and daughters of God. Just as God used the parting of water at the Red Sea with Moses as a liberation from slavery and oppression, so He liberates us from the stain of original sin through these redemptive baptismal waters.
3.) The newly baptized is anointed with sacred oil as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit, working to transform each of us into “little Christs,” sharing His love and presence with all those whom God places in our path.
4.) The white garment symbolizes our “putting on Christ,” with the goal of a holy and pure life, inspiring many others to follow Jesus, thanks to our example.
5.) The baptismal candle, which is lit from the Easter candle, symbolizes the true light of Christ and our calling to be “salt of the earth and light of the world.”
Besides the immediate effects of the remission of sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the new reality of being an adopted son or daughter of God, there is also an inherent mission to share the treasure of Christian faith with others.
“I know that rediscovering my faith will help me get back to what I had so many years ago as a young child growing up in the church.”
Far too many of us are living as if God did not exist — this is my observation, at least, in my area of New York City in my work as a priest. People’s schedules are jam-packed with so many activities, social and professional — and the constant barrage of noise and frenetic activism seems to squeeze the possibility of friendship with Christ out of the picture.
A business leader and fallen-away Catholic recently shared with me this witness: “I reached out to you, Father, and wanted to meet with you so as to start pursuing my faith again. At our recent dinner party, the first thing I noticed was the spiritual glow emanating from the host couple and from your face. I looked around the entire room, and this is what most caught my eye.”
He added, “I know that this host couple are very committed to their Catholic faith. They attend Mass on Sundays and instill this love for Christ in their children, and they stood out for their sincere joy and deep enthusiasm. It was palpable and I could feel the love in their hearts coming out toward me. I want that, Father, and I know that rediscovering my faith will help me get back to what I had so many years ago as a young child growing up in the church.”
Share your glow, share your faith, and let the baptismal light shine in your life — so that Christ’s love can touch the weary and worn-down hearts of so many tired souls in our world today.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.