I have baptized you with water. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8)
Holy Baptism. A sacrament of the new and eternal covenant, the covenant between the one, true God and the human race. [Spanish.]
Holy Baptism involves three things: 1) an unbaptized human being, 2) water, 3) words.
The unbaptized human being: A son or daughter of Adam and Eve. Made in the image and likeness of God, but also weighed down by weakness and evil. Any unbaptized adult can present him- or herself for baptism. Or: Christian parents can present their infant or small child.
Baptism is the first sacrament of faith. The sacrament of a question and an answer: Do you believe in God? I do. Therefore, we have to wonder: Whose faith is it, exactly, that makes the sacrament of Holy Baptism possible? Is it the faith of the unbaptized person that makes the sacrament of baptism possible?
Well, that would be amazing. But it seems to put the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? Since Holy Baptism is the beginning of the life of faith, not the end. At the end of our earthly lives, when we go to meet God, we hope we will draw our last breaths with a living, all-consuming faith. We hope we will receive an A+ on Faith, at the moment of death.
But: Most of us need years, even decades, to grow towards A+-level faith. We need to go to Mass for many months of Sundays. A good bowler only gets good by bowling over and over and over again. Michael Jordan used to practice free-throws for three hours a day, even after he had three, four, or five championship rings. So: trying to require A+-level faith, at the moment of baptism? Or even B- faith? That would be like giving a grad-school exam to a kindergartner.
The question remains, then: Since the sacrament of baptism obviously requires faith, whose faith is it that makes it possible? The faith of… the Church. The family of God throughout the ages and all over the world. Holy Mother Church has A+ faith. The Church says an unequivocal, full-hearted Yes to the rejection of Satan and the embrace of the Creed. The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church has the faith which makes the sacraments of faith possible.
Second element of Holy Baptism: Water. The sacraments came from the Holy Land. A man who walked the earth gave us the sacraments, by teaching His disciples how to celebrate them. That man had unique knowledge, and it will take us the eternity of heaven to understand His mind. So, for now, it is not for us to understand Christ’s teachings first, and then obey them second. No: we obey first. Then we can begin to understand.
So: We could come up with many reasons why an individual comes to share in the Redemption won on the Cross through a ritual washing. Like: It symbolizes our cleansing from sin. Or: it represents Jesus’ death and resurrection. But the simple fact is that Jesus Himself commanded that we baptize with water.
Third, the words necessary for a baptism. We must speak the holy Name. The minister baptizes by uttering the words that refer to the ineffable mystery of divine love. The omnipotent love that made the universe, Who constantly guides His creation to perfect fulfillment.
It’s the most obvious, basic thing in the world: Baptism means uniting a person with God. In the middle of this confused, struggling world that arcs only toward death, baptism unites us with the all-conquering divine life. God reigns supreme; He transcends everything we see and know. He alone can give our lives real meaning. The one God, living and true. Holy Baptism establishes us in a relationship with Him.
What’s His Name? He is the Father. Jesus taught us that. He is Jesus’ Father, and our Father. And He is the Son. The Father taught us that–taught us, and continues always to teach us. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is King. Jesus is our peace. His Heart is our heaven. The Son, too, is God, with the Father. The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. We have true life when we live in that love. And that love, uniting the eternal Father with the eternal Son–is all-powerful and ultimate; that love permeates everything with shimmering holiness; that love, too, is God. The Holy Spirit.
Every time we dip our finger in holy water and bless yourselves, we remind ourselves of our moment in the font, our birthday unto heavenly life. And we remind ourselves of it every time we go to confession, too–since the sacrament of Penance is our way back to our original purity in baptism.
Water and the name of the Trinity. A very simple beginning for an unending mystery: the great adventure of God calling us to true happiness, with Him.