Baptism, Grace, and Love
I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Once a month I get to teach my parish’s baptism preparation class. The room always has a happy energy when one walks into it. Eager new parents are excited to share all about their baby. For most of them this is a sacrament for babies. Sweet little plump cheeks wincing as water is poured over them. From the outside looking in, this sacrament is about babies being welcomed into the church family by their adoring parents and godparents. But the sacrament is so much more than a simple welcome. It is about a deep profound grace that sticks to our souls like marshmallows goo on your shoe during a bonfire–it never washes away.
It is a single baptism that forever changes our souls. The emphasis on “one” or single baptism is so important. This is not a sacrament that should be repeated. It is a sacrament that profoundly changes the person and their relationship with God. When we recall our own baptisms we have to look directly at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River to begin to understand what happens at baptism.
“After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17 NABRE). In the passage from Matthew we see Jesus going to the water to be baptized by John at the Jordan. When Jesus comes out of the water the Triune God is united in the gospel literature. The Holy Spirit fills and the voice of God the Father is heard. God claims Jesus as God’s “beloved Son.” This is what happens at our baptisms. We are claimed as God’s beloved children. We are brought into the fold of a heavenly family. We are all given the same grace. And we are claimed to be beloved by a God who “is loved” (1 John 4).
Baptism is not us claiming to believe in God (that is what professions of faith are for). Baptism is not something we participate in when we decide we want to follow Jesus. The amount of times a person plunges into water isn’t a badge of honor. We believe in one baptism. A singular baptism that is a source of pure loving grace. We should participate in the grace we received at baptism daily. We need to recall that it is where we were welcomed into the body of Christ, when we are cleansed of sin, and when we are proclaimed proudly as God’s children. In our world that is isolating we need more love. And we can participate in love simply by participating in our baptismal grace. It is a grace given to us by love itself–God.