St Etheldreda's

Roman Catholic Church

The meaning and importance of Baptism

Both the New Testament and the whole of Christian tradition teach that Baptism is central to the Christian religion.   Since we believe that God shared our human nature in Jesus Christ, it is understandable that the Church believes that God still touches us through human words and material realities symbolizing and making present God’s own actions.  We believe that God takes each of us to himself in a unique way in the sacrament of Baptism through water and the words of Baptism.

Christians have used many metaphors and images to express what they believe happens to us in Baptism: rebirth; putting on Christ; becoming a child of God; being liberated from sin; dying with Christ; being incorporated in Christ’s body, the Church; receiving the Holy Spirit.  All these images are an attempt to express the Church’s profound belief that through Baptism your child not only takes its first step on the path that leads to God but receives the beginnings of a real change in their personality.  For Baptism creates a new and mysterious relationship with Christ, who died for us and was raised by God to be the beginning of mankind’s future.

When you bring your child to be baptized, assuming you do so in faith, not only are you performing a wonderful act of love towards your child, but you are also committing yourself to work with God to prepare your child for his or her eternal destiny – to be with God for ever.  To bring your child for baptism is to take on a very serious commitment.  You must be really determined to bring up your child as a Christian and a practising member of the Church.  This means providing a Christian education for your child, and first and foremost a Christian home in which, through your teaching and example, your child will be able to experience Jesus’ friendship in an atmosphere of Christian love.  It also means nourishing your child’s religious life throughout infancy and beyond, educating them in word and deed, and in particular supporting them as they progress to the other sacraments and become full members of Christ’s Church.

This child has been reborn in baptism.  He is now called the child of God, and so indeed he is.   In confirmation he will receive the fullness of God’s Spirit.  In holy communion he will share the banquet of Christ’s sacrifice, calling God his Father in the midst of the Church.

From a homily given at infant baptism

What baptism means we shall only fully understand when we see it all in God’s presence in eternity.  In the meantime, the new life of Christ will gradually, but powerfully, unfold in the minds and hearts of these children, through their infancy and childhood, through their teenage years and through their adult life, and their old age, until it comes to fulfilment in God.

Parents, all this is God’s gift to you as well.  Seeing the life of Christ unfolding in your children throughout their lives will give you very great joy.  It also brings enormous responsibility, for, in this complicated world of ours, the life of Christ is fragile and needs protecting.  As St Paul says, ‘we have this treasure in earthen vessels’.  God needs you, parents, to cherish Christ’s life in your children with your affection, to strengthen it with your example, to protect it with your faith and devotion.   Just as God has chosen very ordinary means to bring this miracle about in the first place – water and the human word sacramentally transformed into life-giving power – so he has chosen you,  parents, to help bring it to fruition.  Look after your children’s Christian development with the same earnestness and love as you will bring to their physical and intellectual wellbeing.  Take very seriously the words that you will be saying shortly during the baptism ceremony. And you too, Godparents: your being Godparents is not just a social compliment paid to you but a very serious obligation of care and concern.  May God bless you, little children, and parents and Godparents and all families present here today.  May God bless you as you grow together in faith, and in the love of Jesus.

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