Reflections 15th January 2017

A Reflection for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

MT 2: 1-12 (  

In ancient Greek the verb baptizein means “to immerse, to submerge”. When sailors spoke of having baptised an enemy ship, they meant that they had sunk it.

The Lord Jesus used the word baptism in reference to His death and burial. To be baptised means to participate in Jesus’ own death, to die in order to be re-born.

One of the things you notice about the baptism ceremony is that, it begins with a question: “What name do you give your child?”

These seven words are deceptively simple. Everything that follows flows from them.  Baptism, the first sacrament of initiation, is fundamentally about who we are - and who we will be.  To be baptized is to be defined in a new way: as a Catholic Christian.  We are transformed. 

In the Genesis story, you’ll recall, one of the first things that Adam did was to name everything around him.  In naming their child, parents continue what began in Genesis – and, in effect, declare that they are continuing God’s creative work in the world. So yes: baptism is about creation – in all its beauty and joy and wonder. 

Throughout the ceremony the name of the baby is repeated over and over again. The name is important; we are known by our name, and it is by name that God calls us. Our name is important to us and it is nice to have good things associated with it; good, friendly, kind. It is not pleasant to have a ‘bad name’. When someone’s good name is taken, it is very serious.

We pray that the way the new Christian lives and what she/he does will always be first class.

Our core, our deepest DNA, is divine; it is the Spirit of Love implanted within each of us by our Creator at the first moment of our creation. As Pope Francis said “We were made to be God's children. It is in our DNA"

It comes down to the “Three Cs of Baptism”: Creation, Commitment, and Community. I might also add a fourth “c,” one that underlies all the others: Charity, the great bond of love that uplifts us, inspires us, and inflames our hearts.

These are the raw ingredients of what it means to be a Christian.  Or as the baptism rite puts it so plainly – but so beautifully: “This is our faith.  This is the faith of the Church.  We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Brian O’Toole C.S.Sp.

After ordination, Fr. Brian O’Toole, ministered for many years in Ethiopia. Returning to Ireland, he became part of the Irish Province’s leadership team. He is  currently the director of the Spiritan Mission Resource & Heritage Centre at Kimmage Manor.