This past weekend, the Christmas season ended with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. What a perfect glimpse into the exploration of the beauty of the sacrament. Christ Himself was pure of all sin – Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.” Christ’s baptism directs us to the realization that a cleansing of the soul from original sin is necessary for a relationship with God.
Baptism is so important, in fact, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the kingdom of God” (1215). Without Baptism, whether that be of water, blood or desire, the soul is not capable of a relationship with God because the darkness of original sin inhibits a relationship. Blinded by the nature of sin, the soul cannot see the God who desires so deeply to be intimate with it.
When the light of the baptismal candle is lit, inside the soul, a light begins to flicker. Gone is the darkness of original sin, and in its stead is the beauty of the inklings of a relationship. A God who desires to be intimate with who He created. Galatians 4:3-7 reads:
“So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.”
Let the reality of this insane mystery set in : GOD, who made the world you stand on today, who created your lungs to hold the perfect amount of air, who keeps the earth in orbit, with whom the sun could not shine and the entire universe would be unsustainable without His loving presence, calls YOU His son or daughter.
For so long in the history of religion throughout world, forms of divinity and deity were distant, up in the heavens and separated from their creation. Incas and Mayans feared the wrath of multiple deities in their daily lives. The Romans and Greeks lived in the constant fear that angering their gods would result in a poor harvest, death, disease and pain.
Yet we call God Father. If understood in its fullness, we would never be able to get past this phrase when we pray the Our Father because we would be in such a state of awe over the love God has for us.
Parents wait nine months to meet their child. And believe me, as the oldest of eight children, I know that the nine months of pregnancy can feel like an eternity. But in comparison to the anticipation that God has for your time on this earth, those nine months are like a speck of dust. God has been waiting for you for eternity.
David sings of this incredible love when he wrote in Psalm 139: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in a secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before even one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.”
What a responsibility that the parents and godparents of this soul take onto their shoulders. Out of love for this newly baptized soul and the desire to see him or her reach the final destination of Heaven, they are called to shield this little flame against the temptations and trials of the world. It is not simply a duty that is fulfilled on the day of the baptism – stand in the right place, look here for pictures, hold this candle and don’t catch anything on fire. No – it is a call to battle that does not end until either the soul put into your care passes into the next world and eternity with his maker, or you pass before and begin to intercede and encourage from the other side.
Saints have tapped into the idea of this flame for centuries. Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote, “Go forth and set the world on fire,” and Saint Catherine of Sienna famously penned, “Be who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.”
This is not to say that it will always be easy to keep the fire burning within yourself. In fact, as one matures and finds their dignity and value in Christ, the devil takes special interest in ruining the relationship between the God of the Universe and His beloved children.
This setting of things on fire indicates that your internal flame isn’t destined to stay in it’s current form though. Life is not meant to be lived warmed by the small, flickering glow of that baptismal candle. Instead, with each passing day, the flame should be nurtured and built until it reaches a full blaze, not able to be contained within the soul of it’s origin. When the flame reaches its fullest blast, it bursts out into the world, reaching the hearts of those who come into contact with the soul who is ablaze with love for God.