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Baptism of Our Lord — and our own baptism

When leprosy broke out among  people in Hawaii in 1850, the authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish.

  However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Fr Damien De Veuster, , now canonised a saint, asked to be allowed to minister to them. Straight away he realised that there was only one effective way to do this:and that was to go and live among them.

  Having got permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to them while maintaining a certain distance, but he soon realised that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself.

  The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more in keeping his distance. The lepers now had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame.

The baptism of Jesus was an embarrassment to the early Christians, even John tried to persuade Our Lord not to be baptised by him for John's baptism was a public admission  that a person was a sinner. Jesus wanted to show solidarity with the people he came to help. Though completely sinless, Jesus took our sinful condition on himself, and does not stand apart from us. but goes out to seek and welcome those in need of his love and forgiveness.  

Is this not just exactly what Pope Francis is trying to tell the world about the compassion and love that Christ has for the even most abject sinner, for he identifies himself with each of us?

   The day of a child’s baptism is a day cherished by all parents. They bring the child, to whom they have given life,  to the baptismal font where it will be given the new life of God.  The baptismal font is like the womb of the Church from which the child is born with the new life of Christ, and becomes a member of the Body of Christ.

   As the waters are poured over the child’s head, the priest says the  words of the sacrament, and it  is cleansed from original sin. You are now my beloved son/daughter in whom I am well pleased,  and at that  moment the child’s soul becomes the dwelling place of the Blessed Trinity.

  Immediately afterwards, the child is anointed with the sacred oil of chrism,  welcoming it in to the Church as its newest member, with these words:  As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may live always as a member of his body sharing everlasting life.

The child is next clothed in its white garment, and the priest says: You have become a new creation. See in this white garment you Christian dignity. With your family to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.

The father and mother are now presented with the child's baptismal candle, lit from the Easter candle, symbol of the Risen Christ. What the parents are now doing is undertaking to pass on the gift of faith to their child. Baptism is a commitment for the parents as well to lead the child to Christ. the light, by educating it by their own example, and their devotion to the Church and the sacraments so the child is solidly formed in the faith.

  The child is baptised with water and the Holy Spirit in one day, but the parents will continue to build up the faith of the child, bit by bit, for the rest of their lives. As the child grows,  they will have the joy of seeing it being confirmed by the bishop, later making its first confession, and then the happiness of their child making its first holy communion and its meeting with Jesus in the depth of its innocent soul in the Eucharist.

Our faith is the most precious gift our parents can give us.

Treasure it as the pearl of great price!

Sunday January 12th. 2014                                                                                        Charity registration No. SC 002876