There is much debate about the Catholic practice of baptizing infants. One of the main deliberation point is that the child must be allowed to grow up to decide. Today the Catholic Church celebrates The Baptism of our Lord. I am no scholar of the Church, ill-equipped to present our case on an intellectual platform. I will struggle to explain sacramental grace but perhaps it is this grace that allows me to share my belief in the ordinariness of life.
My parents baptized me when I was only 6 days old. I am now on the downslope of my life passed the mid-point of mortality and hoping to head gracefully into retirement. On this side of the hill, I have started to minimize my belongings and begin to stare at the question of eternal life. I reminisce the path of life I travelled and am thankful to my parents for the gift of baptism.
My Catholic faith with all its accompanying commandments has turned out to be the silent unseen background operating system that had been driving my life. Every instance I am confronted with a juicy temptation, a pop-up thought would immediately be activated, “I am a Catholic. I cannot do this”.
As a young boy growing up I only knew “can or cannot, good or bad, right or wrong”. The lines were clear. Being baptized as an infant and growing up in a practicing Catholic family set my moral compass. It also became an anchor when “can or cannot” became “do you want to? It is your personal right to choose”.
I have failed many times when I was running up the hill of life. Young, energetic, adventurous and in good health, my focus was to accumulate belongings and enjoy experiences. Each time I failed, a warning flashed in my being. Infant baptism also open the doors to two other sacraments: Reconciliation and Confirmation. All three conferred before we become adults to equip us to navigate through our ordinary life.
I am thankful to be given my faith through my baptism as a 6-day old infant. As a child I had no maturity to choose and decide, and no ability to provide for myself. Like I am thankful for my parents when they chose my food, my clothes and my school. They chose and did all this simply out of love. What is good for my child? What makes faith different from the necessities of ordinary life? If we truly totally believe then faith is not a luxury. It cannot afford choice.
If I were growing up today I would be confronted by even more choices. Technology has infinitely swollen the field of information. If I do not have a moral compass and an anchor, this field becomes a chancy mine field to decide in. I am thankful that we have similarly given our two children the gift of infant baptism.
Infant baptism did not guarantee for me that I did not stray in life. I did so many times and for prolonged periods I abandoned God. But perhaps it is this difficult-to-explain sacramental grace that keeps pulling me back. Now picking up speed on the downslope of life, this grace tells me “that I your God will not abandon you despite your many trials when you abandoned me in life”.
“But when the kindness and love of God our saviour for mankind were revealed, it was not because he was concerned with any righteous actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our saviour. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to inheriting eternal life.” (Today’s second reading)
The Baptism of our Lord