When’s the last time you thought about your baptism?
If you were baptized, it’s likely that this rite was celebrated when you were an infant, so you have no memory of the event. Baptism is not an aspect of our identities that we hold up very often — for most of us, it’s a background fact, like the place we were born.
After learning more about baptism, I now realize that it’s a mistake to overlook this fact. Whether we remember it or not, baptism has the power to positively shift how we go through daily life.
We are all different, but we all share common human desires, like wanting to be seen, known, and loved. These desires drive our behavior in relationships, our professional aspirations, and how we encounter the world in general. When we operate out of a conviction that we are deeply and unconditionally loved by God, we live differently. Baptism is a sign of that love — it is a sign that we are joining a community of adopted sons and daughters of God.
When we are baptized, we no longer belong to ourselves, “but to him who died and rose for us.” What does it mean to say that we belong to Jesus Christ? Do we lose our identity? And how are we connected to someone who lived so long ago?
The key here is remember that though Jesus lived and died 2,000 years ago, he is risen from the dead and present to us even now. This belief stands at the fundamental core of our faith: Jesus is God’s Son and wants to have a relationship with us.
Remember, Jesus experienced profound joys and sorrows in life — just like us. To say we belong to him might sound threatening at first, but Jesus who knows us and loves us more thoroughly than we know and love ourselves, whether or not we quite believe that yet.
Baptism is the entry to a life lived differently. A life that is in this world, but that does not buy into the world’s offers that consistently disappoint. As Henri Nouwen said, through baptism, “we declare that we no longer want to remain children of the darkness but want to become children of the light, God’s children.”
Baptism changes the horizon of our lives. We are not what we do; we are not what other people say we are; we are not what we have. We are always the beloved of God.
People with a mission
Because baptism makes us belong to Christ, it gives us a share in his mission. That mission is to serve others in love and transform the world.
Let’s ask again: What does that even mean?
It means that as baptized people, we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves. How we interact with others, how we choose to spend our time, what habits we form — it all has the potential to transform not only us, but the world.
We are all called by Jesus to come after him, to join a community of followers who are committed to his mission. That might look like doing volunteer work; giving your total presence to someone who needs to talk; or practicing hard things like forgiveness, gentleness and sacrifice in your relationships.
Any time we serve others, it makes an impact on the world. But because we are baptized, the love we share is a way to participate in Jesus’ love for others, too. And that love has a depth and power to it that changes us. It’s like tapping into a source of (higher) power.
Whether or not you know it or believe it, your baptism changed you. It’s where your identity as a person of Christian faith began. We all live out that faith to different degrees, but the one commonality is that we were all baptized. That’s the moment our lives began to take on the shape of Jesus’ life.
As Christians, we believe that the more our lives reflect the life of Jesus, the more joy and peace we will experience. That faith won’t take away pain and suffering — we’re following a man who was crucified, after all — but it does open up a way for us through that suffering.
So remembering your baptism is a good way to get back to the foundation of faith. If you’re feeling lost or troubled, you can renew your baptismal promises, for example. These are a question/answer dialogue from the rite of baptism. If you were an infant, your parents and godparents answered these questions for you, but as Catholics, we renew these promises during the Easter season every year (and at every baptism we go to). These promises put us in touch with the fundamental realities of our faith.
When we remember our baptism, we call to mind the ways it changes the direction of our lives, and grounds us in God’s love. If we act on it, I think baptism has the power to change our Church and world as well.