“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
Almost every year on the upcoming feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Pope Francis encourages Christians to celebrate the day of their baptism.
“The celebration of Jesus’ baptism invites every Christian to remember his or her own baptism. I cannot ask you whether you remember the day of your baptism, because most of you were infants, like me; we were baptized as infants. But I ask you another question: do you know the date of your baptism? Do you know what day you were baptized? Each one think about it. And if you do not know the date or have forgotten it, upon returning home, ask your mom, grandma, uncle, aunt, grandpa, godfather, godmother: what is the date? We must always keep that date in our memory, because it is a date of celebration; it is the date of our initial sanctification; it is the date on which the Father gave us the Holy Spirit who encourages us to walk; it is the date of the great forgiveness. Do not forget: what is the date of my baptism?” (Pope Francis, Angelus Address, January 7, 2018)
Like the children of the Vatican employees the Pope will baptize in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, I was baptized on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (just not in the Sistine Chapel by the Pope). So every year, I obey Pope Francis’ suggestion and celebrate my baptism on the liturgical anniversary of the occasion.
Another way I try to celebrate the importance of the sacrament of baptism is by giving gifts to my godchildren on the anniversaries of their baptism rather than their births. Their birthdays are wonderful celebrations, of course, but I became their godparent at the occasion of the sacrament. Celebrating that day reminds both of us of the importance of that relationship and what happened that day.
Why is this day so important? It’s more than just a fancy white gown and a party. It’s more than just a milestone and Church photo op.
Through baptism, we become sons and daughters of the living God. The sacrament washes away the original sin of our parents and incorporates us into the Body of Christ.
God wills all to be saved. What is more, He wants to make everyone partakers of His divine nature. This is an enormous mystery. He wishes to adopt us as His sons and daughters and draw us into His very life. He transforms us – not just giving us the title of son or daughter, but elevating us and making us partakers of His divine nature.
Jesus didn’t need baptism. He sought out the baptism of John to show us what we were to do. The waters of the Jordan didn’t sanctify him; He sanctified them. Subjecting himself to stand among sinners, he accepted a baptism that he did not need. He did it out of love for us, as the beginning of his acceptance “of his mission as God’s suffering Servant.” (CCC 536)
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).
Baptism is so important, the Church gives the power to baptize to anyone if someone is in the danger of death. A non-Christian could even baptize someone, provided he intended to do what the Church intends and he used proper matter and form (water and the Trinitarian formula).
In Baptism, we die with Christ. We enter into the waters to rise up a new creation. This is a day we should celebrate, both liturgically on Sunday’s feast, but also personally, on the anniversary of our own baptism. Spend time in prayer, pondering the mystery of our divine adoption- something we may take for granted. Let us join our voices with John as we marvel, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1).
“I ask you a question: which of you knows the date of your Baptism? Surely not everyone. Therefore, I encourage you to find out the date, by asking, for example, your parents, your grandparents, your godparents, or going to the parish. It is very important to know it, because it is a date to be celebrated: it is the date of our rebirth as Children of God. For this reason, homework for this week: go and find out the date of your Baptism. Celebrating that day means and reaffirms our adherence to Jesus, with the commitment to live as Christians, members of the Church and of a new humanity, in which all are brothers and sisters.” (Pope Francis, Angelus Address, January 10, 2016)
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