Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hope and the Sacrament of Baptism

Hope is a daily battle. Every day we face things that works to tear us down, to pull us aprt, to convince us that we are worthless and helpless and powerless. There are so many confusing messages out there, messages that hide or distort the truth. There are so many temptations to give in to selfishness and so little help in stepping up to choose selflessness. And that is why everyone, from the newborn infant to the elderly person, needs Baptism.

Baptism Provides Spiritual Armor for the Soul

One of the first things any military provides to their warriors in training is armor. They teach them how to put it on and how to wear it. It becomes a part of everything they do. This is so that when they face the real battle, they aren't caught unprepared and left vulnerable.

This world is a very real battle and nobody is excluded. Evil does not respect age or circumstance. Those who are bullies go after the innocent with even greater venom than the corrupt. They don't need to poison the corrupt - they are already under their thumb. You would not ordinarily chose to bring a baby to the battle field with you, but life is a battle and there's no getting away from that fact.

Your baby is on a battlefield whether you like it or not. The responsible thing to do is issue them the armor they need. You dress them in that armor every day and you teach them how to use it as they grow, but you don't leave them unprotected.

If you don't have this armor for yourself, seek it out right away! You have been fighting this battle daily and taking the hits. Your soul is tattered and torn. Your capacity to keep yourself open to love and to forgive after being harmed takes daily damage. You need to protect yourself and seek the healing that Love wants to pour out onto you.

Baptism Is the Sign of the New Covenant

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in Baptism in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" - Colossians 2:11-13

Love wants to enter into a covenant with you. A covenant means that even if you fail, Love won't. If we fall on the journey, Love promises not to let go of our hand. We can let go, we can choose to turn away from Love, but Love won't turn away from us.

The sign that Love has given us for this new covenant is baptism. There was a covenant that came before this one - one that Love introduced first to the Children of Israel. You could only enter into that covenant through invitation by one who already was a Child of Israel. But this new covenant is for all who wish to join with Love.

Circumcision was the sign of that Old Covenant. The price that was paid was flesh and blood of the believer as a sign of their desire to become one flesh with Love. It was given to the infant in the 8th day as a sign that the parents wished for Love to embrace the baby. It was up to the parents to raise the child in the faith, and a sign of their promise to do so.

No longer, however, does Love ask for that flesh and blood to be given. The flesh and blood price has already been paid by Christ. All we must do is join ourselves to Christ so that His sacrifice becomes our own.

In Baptism, the Faithful are Joined to the Body of Christ

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit." - 1 Cor. 12: 12-13

Baptism joins us to Love through the Body of Christ. We become like cells in that body, each with our own role to play and each with our own purpose but all working for the health and wellness of the body. Those who chose to disobey Christ or to wander from him can be cut off from the Body so as to preserve the health of the whole, but this does not indicate a need for being baptized a second time. In fact, in no place in Scripture do you find anyone being baptized more than once!

Rather, it indicates a need to reconcile with the Body and to seek healing for the wounds that have been inflicted because of the decision to rebel or to pursue selfish aims. 

"Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." - James 5:16

Baptism Marks the Soul for Christ

"Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.83 Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated." - Catechism of the Catholic Church,

"Do you not know that we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." - Romans 5: 3-4

Baptism cannot help but change you. This is its intention. Even if you walk away from the path of Love, you can't shake off the impact that Love has had on your life. The encounter with Love will always change you.Nothing you do can erase the mark. You can choose to live in contradiction to the meaning of it, but that will ultimately lead you to being dissatisfied with your life and yourself. Walking away from Love will never bring you Hope or Joy because Hope and Joy are always found wherever Love resides. The only resolution to that dissatisfaction is to give way to the source of your hope and return to the Love which it points toward.

Baptism Is an Invitation to Love

When a person is baptized, they are issuing an invitation to Love. They are telling Love to come on in, make itself at home, and bring everything it has to offer along with it. And with Love comes Hope and Joy. Its presence leaves us gentler, more tender, more patient, more kind, and more loving than we would be without it.

Baptism is a direct invitation to Love to enter in and make its home in us, and even if we later decide that we no longer want Love to be part of our lives because the pain that invitation brings is too much for us to bear, the impact of Love's presence and indwelling in us cannot help but echo in the chambers of the emptiness that is there in its wake. 

The further away from Love we wander, the more unhappy and empty we feel. There is no one quite so miserable in life as one who has tasted the beauty, hope, and joy of love and then has lost it or let it go.

The Sacrament of Baptism Is a Sign of Hope

Entering into Baptism is a sign that you are accepting the Hope that Love will reign in your life, that there will be an end to selfishness and pain, and that you are willing to give yourself over to that mission. It is the beginning of your new life, the doorway to a greater journey.

As I explained in earlier chapters, the Rosary prepares you for the difficulties you will find on this journey and teaches you how to respond to those challenges as they come up. The Eucharist nourishes you on this journey and infuses you with the graces needed to find Hope in the hard places. But Baptism is where that journey truly begins. 

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