All holy prophets went up to a high mountain to have an encounter with God. Since Jesus is God, He took Peter John and James up to the mountain so that they could have an encounter with Him—to show them His identity. The voice of the Father confirmed, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
We do not have to climb a mountain to have an encounter with Jesus Christ. We have the Church as the fountain of salvation. Through the Sacraments Jesus continues to reveal Himself, to confirm that we are loved. No Sacrament is more important than another. Yet, of the seven that we have, Baptism is the one that identifies us as Christians. Baptism is one of the three Sacraments of initiation. When we receive Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation, then we are fully initiated into the Roman Catholic Church. Baptism is a rite of passage, a purification, signals a new beginning. Neither John the Baptist nor Jesus invented Baptism. Ancient tribes observed a similar ritual as a form of cleansing. One of the directives of Christ was, “Go and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The words are said as holy water is poured upon the forehead of the person. The candidate can also be immersed, as long as the head gets wet. Baptism is a symbolic drowning. No doubt that the early Christians got the picture when the presbyter or deacon would hold them under water for a few seconds. “I baptize you in the name of the Father………….and of the Son…………and of the Holy Spirit…………” The old life was left behind and the new life, in Christ was embraced.
People fell in love with Jesus and were willing to do anything for Him, including being martyred. First came the relationship with Christ, then Baptism followed. Now we baptize people and then look to see if there’s a relationship. Like all the other Sacraments, Baptism is like a seed—a beginning. In the early Church only adults along with their families were baptized. Infant baptism is what the Church promotes. If a child is seven years or older than the child must attend preparation classes and when baptized receives also the Eucharist and is Confirmed—fully initiated because the candidate is considered to have reached the age of reason. Third graders are prepared for Holy Communion and Sophomores in High School are prepared for Confirmation. Therefore parents are encouraged to baptize their children soon after birth.
Given our popular religiosity, many believe that they must have their children baptized even if they have no plans to educate them in the Catholic Faith. The evidence is that the majority of the folks who come for Baptism are never seen again until the children are ready for Holy Communion, Confirmation or worse—when they want to get married. [Two priests were comparing stories about having bats in the bell tower. One tried poison, traps, exterminators—just couldn’t get rid of them. The other said, do what I did, “I baptized them and I haven’t seen them again.”] Contrary to popular belief, Baptism does not guard against babies getting the “ojo” (evil eye) or “ipo” (uncontrolled hiccups) or “susto” (fear of the dark). The Sacrament will have no effect unless the parents, the family and the school environment nurture the seeds of Faith. That’s why “Compadres” which means co-parents or sponsors are so important. If the family should fail in their responsibility to nurture the seeds, the sponsors need to take over. Fact is that the sponsors have more of an obligation than the next of kin, should anything happen to the parents of the child. Once a person is baptized he/she has the right to receive all the other Sacraments, with the exception of Holy Orders for women. However, in our history women were ordained as deaconesses. Baptism gets our foot in the door and in essence “brands” us as a child of God. So even the ones who renounce the Faith or call themselves atheists can never remove the indelible mark on our soul.
Baptism is not about a day—a once upon a time event—but a life-style. We are called to live our Baptism by our imitation of Christ.