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Posts Tagged ‘Baptism’

InfantBaptism

I was recently involved in a conversation about infant baptism.  A lot of people question the practice, and there are some who outright object to it.  To be fair, it’s not easy for people of our age and culture to understand.  But I’d like to take a moment to try and explain it a little, for anyone who would like to read it.

The objection goes something like this: “A baby is not capable of making a spiritual commitment or of putting his/her faith in Christ.  Therefore, to baptize an infant really doesn’t make sense.”

Let’s give the other side their due: Infants are certainly not capable of a leap of faith.  But it is equally true to say that infants are incapable of feeding themselves.  Are we, for that reason, going to refrain from feeding them?  Should we not, according to the aforementioned logic, be saying, “It would make no sense to feed them now; let’s wait until they get old enough to decide for themselves what they like to eat”?

Spiritual nourishment is no less important than physical nourishment, and Christian parents have understood that from the earliest centuries.  I understand why people today have a different idea, since our modern Western culture tends more toward an emphasis on personal autonomy and responsibility (that, too, has an indispensable place in the spiritual life — that would be more what the sacrament of Confirmation is all about).  But there’s one key thing we have to remember about the spiritual life of any person.

Here it is…

God must act first.

Apart from grace, we cannot live the spiritual life.

“Yes,” my fellow debater will reply, “but God already did that through Jesus Christ on the Cross.”

You will get no argument from me there.  But one of the greatest and most exciting things about God’s work in the world is that He does not despise space, time, and matter.  Indeed, He acts in and through material things, which become the means of our contact with Him.  That’s what the sacramental life is all about.

Far from adding to or taking away from the Sacrifice of Christ, Baptism is how that saving Sacrifice becomes applied to the individual particularly.  It is the door to the spiritual life, to the divine life that God wants to share with us not just hereafter, but here and now.

There are a lot of issues to address when it comes to infant baptism, and there’s a lot more I could say about it.  But I think this post is long enough.  Maybe I’ll return to this topic another time.  Thanks for reading.

Image from Wikipedia

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Just some pictures from my daily travels:

SkyAn interesting cloud formation (center)…

Water…and the surface of a small lake.

The generative powers of both air and water (not to mention their respective beauties) have been known to mankind for ages.  And in John 3:5, Jesus describes Baptism in terms of being “born of water and Spirit” (air, or breath, has often been used as a symbol for the Spirit).

Who ever said nature wasn’t “evangelical”?

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To read part one, go to https://intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/the-meaning-of-life-in-jeff-who-lives-at-home-part-one-of-two/

The quest for meaning is very much a part of the human “dance,” in my view.  It is part of the “stuff” that makes up our existence, and it speaks of our desire to be dancing to a meaningful “tune” as opposed to moving mechanically along some cosmic assembly line.

Jeff’s quest for meaning leads him to risk his life to save complete strangers from drowning.

Jeff on Toilet

Now this hearkens back to the beginning of the film, where Jeff reflects on the fact that the characters in the movie “Signs” are saved by water at the end.  He sees the connection between this and the unfinished glasses of water left by the Abigail Breslin character throughout the film, which he takes as an illustration of how all things happen for a purpose.

His own search for “signs” leads him to the very same end, for the scene in question indeed involves salvation by water, not just from water.

The religious and spiritual allusion is quite clear here (although I can’t say whether the filmmakers, Jay and Mark Duplass, had this in mind, it is often used as a literary element).  For a Catholic, the notion of salvation by water refers first and foremost to Baptism:

“Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word” (CCC 1213)*

Noah's Ark

But the term also evokes the Old Testament imagery of the Great Flood (remember Noah’s Ark?) and the Exodus from Egypt, both of which the Church understands to be prefigurations of Baptism.

In both cases, we see at the same time salvation by water and destruction by water.  This is quite consistent with the character of water itself, which we all recognize has life-giving and destructive sides.  Partly for that reason, it is a fitting symbol and instrument of salvation.

The great paradox of the self is that you only find it by losing it.  If you are looking for yourself – that is, your deepest self, your true identity as a unique, individual person – you’ll never find it.  Only by forgetting ourselves in the service of God – for none of us exists by our own power — and neighbor – for none of us exists in isolation – can we find and become who we were born to be.

What needs to die, what needs to be destroyed in the deluge, is the ego.  If I want to live an authentic life, I have to give up my self-centered, self-willed, self-serving ways and actively live out my vocation, the same vocation each and every one of us has — namely, to love.

Far from being a mere feeling, love is the decision to want and seek what is good for the other for the other’s own sake, rather than for the sake of our own gratification.  And to be willing to sacrifice everything one has — even to the point of dying, if necessary — for the sake of another is the highest form of love.

This is a major part of life’s meaning, and I think that’s the lesson Jeff and his brother, Pat, learn at the end of “Jeff, Who Lives at Home.”

Any reader who knows me well knows that I am far from perfect in this area.  Like most of us, I have yet to surrender all of those aspects of my personality that are concerned with my own prerogatives.  And for that, I am sorry.  I beg patience with a work-in-progress such as myself.

Still from the film obtained through a Google image search; photo of Noah’s ark obtained from http://www.wikipedia.org.

For citations of primary sources, go to http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P3G.HTM

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