This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. On this day we recall Jesus coming to John the Baptist at the River Jordan and, upon emerging from the waters, the Holy Spirit coming down to rest upon Him and the voice of the Heavenly Father speaking those blessed words, “This is my beloved Son…” We recall the goodness of Christ our Savior who went down into the waters not to be cleansed by them, but rather, to sanctify for all time the waters of baptism for the rest of us.
Not only an important event in its own right, the liturgical celebration of the Baptism of the Lord marks the official end of the Christmas season. Beginning Monday, the vestments will return to the familiar green color of Ordinary Time until March 6, when we celebrate Ash Wednesday and the holy season of Lent begins.
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is also an occasion to reflect upon the great gift of the Sacrament of Baptism, the first and (at least in one sense) the greatest of all the sacraments, for it is the “gateway” to all the others. By this sacrament we are cleansed of original sin, we receive our adoption as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, we are incorporated into the living Body of Christ (which is the Church), and are extended the great invitation from God Himself to become living saints in our world today.
As a pastor, I can say that celebrating a baptism is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my vocation. Baptisms are always moments of great joy and expectation, often bringing together family and friends from quite a distance away. I especially love observing how older children react to a younger sibling being baptized; they seem to have an innate sense that something incredibly special is happening to their baby brother or sister, even if they aren’t old enough to truly understand the details. Of course, much of the credit for this needs to go to the wonderful moms and dads in our parish, who are clearly instilling a strong sense of the faith and the importance of this sacrament in their older children.
Now that 2018 is completed, I am happy to share that we had a whopping 55 baptisms in the parish during this past year! We had 27 baby boys, 19 baby girls, five children of school age, and four adults. It’s an extraordinary thing that a parish of our modest size (less than 500 households) had 46 infant baptisms in one year. This is a great sign of “new life” and growth in our parish. (It’s also extraordinary that among the infants, the numbers were so skewed towards boys… 27 vs. 19. Was there something “in the water” during 2018? Or perhaps just a natural rebalancing, as our infant girl baptisms outnumbered infant boys in 2017, 2016, and 2015.)
On our part, I would invite everyone to see all of these children as “children of our parish.” While their parents have the first and primary responsibility for raising them in the faith, all of us can assist these parents in that task. We do so by offering words of encouragement to them and by working together to build up a more and more vibrant, engaged, and active Catholic community here in our parish. May 2019 bring our parish many blessings and many more babies to be baptized.
Fr. John Paul