7 Jan 2012

8th January 2012 - Baptism of the Lord (and the Sacrament of Baptism)

On this weeks programme we continue with the second part of our monthly series on the sacraments with Sr Margaret O'Sullivan who joins us to speak about the Sacrament of Baptism. We also have our regular reflection on the Sunday gospel, saints of the week and some local and not so local notices.
This weeks podcast is available HERE.

Sacrament of Baptism - The Sacrament of Welcome

Sr Margaret joins us on this weeks programme to discuss with us the Sacrament of Baptism. This is the second part of our series on the Sacraments of the Church which we began in Advent with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The essence of the Sacrament of Baptism is firstly a celebrating God’s love for this new born life. It is meant to be celebratory, meant to be joyful!

One of seven Sacraments and one of three Sacraments of Initiation along with Confirmation and Eucharist. It is the Church’s sacrament of welcome and the gateway to all the other Sacraments. Beyond Baptism, the journey of faith is to become what we already are –daughters and sons of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. We make this journey in our daily lives hopefully with the support of family and the Church community. 

Baptism is the common starting point of all Christians . It means that there is fundamental equality between us all – old and young, rich and poor, men and women, native and stranger. All Christians are graced with the same dignity . As St Paul reminds us in Galatians 3: ‘ there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male of female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’
 Impact on/of the Christian Community

When we celebrate Baptism the whole community is called to welcome this new member, be it a child or an adult who has sought baptism. The words of the Rite of Baptism express it, "the Christian community welcomes you with great joy". It is a beautiful moment when a new member, a new life comes among us and the Rite of Baptism is laden with wonderful symbolism to express this. Baptism is initiation into a Community which was very strongly understood and expressed in the early Church. Community involvement was central, with a member of the community who spoke for the person and gave a guarantee that this person seeking Baptism was worthy of their place in the Christian Community. At the time it was mainly adult baptisms and there was a requirement for an adult commitment to Christian life.

The ideal of course is that Community be present at the Baptism which has implications for the timing of the celebration and its appreciation by the wider community. An ideal time for community involvement is at the Easter Vigil. The early Church celebrated Baptism only once a year and at Easter time linking the new life of the newly baptised directly to the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Bringing the community involvement back into the sacrament means a little amount of creative thinking and encouragement. Examples of ideas would be the inclusion in the prayer of faithful for newly baptised and family, recognition and a mention in the parish bulletin; gathering of all children baptised during the year perhaps during the Easter Vigil of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord to be presented to the local Christian community of which they are now members by virtue of their baptism. 

Celebration and Rite 
The Rite of Baptism is the ritual of baptism. Rites and rituals are things people do to mark and celebrate certain times and transitions in life and during the year. Coming to Church for Baptism is not just a gathering for a homily or social event.

In a ritual, words almost fail us and we then speak the deeper language of symbol e.g. wedding band, lighting candles, use of incense, oil, water, handshake, hand on the shoulder, a hug - we use symbols because at times words fail us
The rite of Baptism is a rehearsal of the journey of this new Christian. 
  • The DOOR - the child is met at the door and is welcomed on behalf of the Christian Community. The journey to God is not made alone but in the company of others. It is about a relationship with the Christian community with whom you are named and welcomed.
  • The BOOK – The Word of God is proclaimed as part of the rite. The Word is a sign of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Word is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the voice of God speaking to us of the relationship of God with us through the ages. The Holy Spirit our helper and guide on our journey if we open our hearts and minds to the prompting of the Spirit.
  • The FONT - It is a symbol of our relationship with Jesus. We are baptised into his death (water), anointed like him (Chrism) and then called to be his witness through out the world (Light). Then a White garment is wrapped around the child symbolic of putting on Christ. 
  • The  ALTAR – Final part of the rite occurs near the alter which is our weekly gathering place in relationship with the Father which is demonstrated in  the Eucharistic Prayer addressed to the Father and by our praying to ‘our Father'. Jesus spoke of ‘going to the Father’ his final destination and ours – being at he Father’s right hand is the goal of our journey too…beginning in time at the door and ending outside time with the Father in heaven.
Preparation in the Parish

Why are you asking for baptism for your child? We need to build up and support people's understanding of this beautiful Sacrament. We need to encourage an awareness of our identity as Christians and how Baptism gives us an identity. Jesus knew in John 13; ‘He knew that he had come from God and that he was going back to God’ Identity enables us to know where we have come from, what we have been given and where we are going.
Central role in passing on the faith belongs to parents/guardians. It is they who will be the role models of faith for their children. It is in the home that children need to learn and experience trust, love,faith, hope and commitment in order for their faith to grow. Not alone in task - Godparents (baptised and confirmed catholics who are committed to sharing their faith with their godchild) and of course the community.
But the Church is keen that parents know and understand what they are asking of the Church and the commitment that are being made. They are asked throughout the ceremony "You have asked to have your child baptised, do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?" "Is it your will that your child should be Baptised?" 

The role of parents is symbolised in the handing on of the Candle. The light is entrusted to them to be kept burning brightly for their child. It is not given to their godparents, or the child's future teachers, but to the parents who have made the request of the church who prays "May he/she keep the flame of faith alive in heart, so that when the Lord comes, she/he may go out to meet him with all the saints".

Other resources and information about the Sacrament of Baptism:

Gospel - Mark: 1:7-11

This week we have the closing gospel of the Christmas season, the recounting of the Baptism of the Lord. The gospel is one of the four manifestations of the Lord - the Nativity, the Epiphany to the Magi, the Baptism of the Lord and the Miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana.
Jesus begins his public ministry today after being baptised by John in the Jordon where his role and relationship with God the Father is affirmed. His Father is well pleased with him and Jesus is Beloved of the Father. The baptism is a doorway of confirmation of the personal union and relationship between Jesus and his Father in heaven represented by the Holy Spirit.
Are there moments in our lives when we experience moments of affirmation? Do we appreciate them? Do we act on them? Do we create space and time for God to manifest himself to us?

Other reflections on this weeks gospel:
UPDATE: Due to the variation in the liturgical calendar between Ireland and the USA and UK who celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today, we weren't able to put up some of our normal links for further reflections:

Saints of the Week

1st Week of Ordinary Time - Psalter Week 2

January 9th - St Philip II of Moscow
January 11th - St Breandan
January 13th - St Kentigern of Glasgow

Sacred Space 102fm Prayer Circle Intentions for the Year

At the same time, we are asking our regular listeners who are housebound or ill to consider taking on a task for the year - a prayer intention. Just because we may no longer actively attending Mass in our parish does not mean you are no longer part of our diocesan community. So we are asking for your prayers for the following intentions and you are encouraged to also seek the intercession of the saints for each intention:
  • The Unemployed and those seeking work - St Joseph the Worker
  • Emigrants - St Patrick
  • Government - St Thomas Moore (or St Jude, patron saint of Lost Causes)
  • Vocations - St Alphonsis Ligouri
  • Bankers and those in financial services - St Matthew the Evangelist
  • Priests - St John Vianney
  • Diocese of Limerick and the selection of our new bishop - St Munchin and St Ita
  • International Eucharistic Congress - St Colmcille, St Mary McKillop, Blessed Margaret Ball
  • Pope Benedict XVI - St Peter, St Benedict, St Joseph
  • Youth - St John Bosco, Ss Francesco and Jacinta (Seers of Fatima), Blessed Piero Gergio Frassati
  • Cancer patients - St Peregrine
  • Media and the Press - St Paul, Blessed James Alberione
  • Persecuted Christians - St Stephen, St Edith Stein, the Ugandan Martyrs.

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