Summary: The promises we make in baptism are challenges to be soaked with Christ.
Easter Sunday 2013
“I Reject. . .I Believe”
In my ministry of deacon, about five times a year I have the privilege of welcoming young children into the Church through the sacrament of Baptism. The rite of Baptism of Infants is pretty straightforward, involving the reading of Scripture, singing of psalms, two anointings with oil and the baptism itself. The forms of Baptism make a direct trajectory with what we celebrate today–the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to a new life, a life we all share in hope of eternal life in union with God. The forms include the pouring of water from the font blessed last night, the light of the Paschal Candle first displayed last night, the use of oils blessed by the bishop last week in solemn ceremony. But two interactions with the parents always get my attention.
You see, valid reception of all the sacraments require faith, the gift of God we exercise when we say “I believe.” It’s a gift we receive in baptism, but there must be a faith connection for the child to receive that gift. And very young children don’t have the capacity of mind and will to make that kind of connection. So we enlist the faith of the parents and godparents to provide the connection.
The first interaction starts as the parents and godparents arrive. I challenge them: “you have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” And I also challenge the godparents to help the parents in this endeavor. They must respond “I do” before I can administer the sacrament. What good would it do to baptize a child who never learns how to respond to the love of God? It would be like giving birth and then leaving the child on the ground to die!
The second interaction comes right before the baptism. We must assure ourselves that the parents and godparents know what they are about to do, and that they believe what the Church believes. I ask the questions, raise the challenges of a Christian life. And our celebrant today will do the same thing for each of us. The questions are the same, because today, which is really the anniversary of all of our baptisms, Resurrection Day, we all renew our baptismal promises. We stand up before God and a hostile, anti-Catholic culture, and say things that are definitely not politically correct. With the Apostles, we tell the world that we must obey God rather than man.
The first question: Do you reject Satan? Before you say, “I do,” consider what the word means. Satana is a Hebrew-Aramaic word meaning Adversary, Accuser, Enemy. He is a powerful angel who rebelled against God, and he is the author of our original rebellion as humans. He divides, separates God from man, husband from wife, child from parent, friend from friend. We ally with this hell-bound creature whenever we disobey God’s Law, when we gossip, fuss when we should listen, close ourselves off from others, abuse ourselves or others sexually. We submit to him whenever we stay away from confession because we think God can’t forgive our awful sin–and he is constantly telling us we are too bad to forgive. As Jesus said, from the beginning he was a liar and a murderer. He wants to devour us, and only the Lord God can conquer him. We reject Satan.