Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism, part III – Baptized for a Mission

Something happens at baptism.  We cannot empirically prove it. You cannot run an MRI or a CT and tell the difference between the baptized and the nonbaptized.  The water will dry, the candle is put out.  The white garments will be put away.

But something happened.

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

You were once in a life where your goal in life is your own happiness; and now your goal in life is to live the life of Jesus Christ—from the nativity to the ascension—in the here and now.  That all parts of your life are now called to be completely integrated, if not overwritten, by the life and will of Jesus Christ.

We are brought into a new relationship.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “As the Apostle says, all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in His death.  And further on he concludes, So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Hence it is clear that by Baptism man died unto the oldness of sin, and begins to live unto the newness of grace. (Part III, Q 69.1)


After the baptism of children, they are usually anointed with the Sacred Chrism.  This is used three times during the year—baptism, confirmation, a priestly and episcopal ordination.  At all three times, a person is anointed for a particular mission.  The mission of the baptized is to be holy—to be a saint.

I remember the first time when I was told that this is our vocation–to be a saint.  I was taken aback—I had images of being zapped into a statue or a stained-glass window.  I had a presupposed notion of what holiness is, and it is not necessarily what the Second Vatican Council teaches.

v2navThe Council elucidates what holiness is on in one of its pillar documents.  The fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium is entitled “Universal Call to Holiness” reads:

41.  The forms and tasks of life are many but there is one holiness, which is cultivated by all who are led by God’s Spirit, and, obeying the Father’s voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and truth, follow Christ, poor and humble in carrying his cross, that they may deserve to be sharers in his glory.  All, however, according to their own gifts and duties must steadfastly advance along the way of a living faith, with arouses hope and works through love.”

First of all, living a life of holiness is Trinitarian.  We are led by the Spirit, obey the Father, and follow the Son.

Second, we obtain holiness through our own gifts and duties; via our charisms as given by the Holy Spirit, and through the duties of our particular state of life.

The document reads on, “Accordingly, all Christians, in the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives and through all these, will grow constantly in holiness if they receive all things with faith from the hand of the heavenly Father and cooperate with the divine will, making manifest in their ordinary work the love with which God has loved the world.” (LG 41.7)

Though in previous paragraphs, the document does make specific calls of holiness—like spouses should support each other in mutual love, that priests should remember that they belong to a fraternity of priests of the High Priest, Jesus Christ–the document does not go into any specifics on how holiness ought to look.  It acknowledges that we are all unique manifestations of God’s love, and thus, we obtain our holiness in differing ways.

Holiness is not necessarily going into ecstasy, or saying 20 mysteries of the rosary everyday, or reading the Bible cover to cover in a week…nothing overextraordinary.  Holiness is continually receiving and dispensing grace from God.  Receiving grace by attending to the sacraments—Mass and Confession Praying privately or communally, acting in self-denial—fasting, giving time, treasure and talent, doing corporal acts of mercy., our ‘ordinary work’ will lead us to holiness, as manifest in how we show our love for one another.  It’s by manifesting our love for one another that we obtain holiness.

From paragraph 42.1 “…But if charity is to grow…all of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will by what they do, with the help of his grace; they must frequently partake of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and take part in the liturgy; they must constantly apply themselves to prayer, self-denial, active sisterly and brother service and the practice of all the virtues.”

Holiness is not merely wasting time with God before and after Mass, not only going to adoration and reconciliation regularly—but doing acts of goodness, corporal acts of mercy. did Jesus get baptized?

He got baptized in order to prefigure his Passion, Death and Resurrection.  But also to put himself in context with all of salvation history—Jesus, in getting baptized, found a way to submit himself to the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants.  Thus, when Jesus initiated his own covenant—the covenant we remember every time we attend Mass—it is perfectly in line with all of God’s promises from the very beginning.

But it goes further.  Jesus was baptized in order to show us a way to be holy.  Our vocation as members of the Body of Christ is to be saints, pure and simple.  We aren’t told to be saints in one particular way, or in one particular language, or vocation, or country, or ecclesiastical rite…but to be called to be another Christ, and alter Christus, to be another Jesus, to be a Holy One of God.

Fra Angelico, OP St. Dominic & Christ

Fra Angelico, OP
St. Dominic & Christ

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!


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