Baptism is performed in a variety of ways by different Christian faiths. Some baptize in infancy while others wait until adulthood. Some rites involve sprinkling or pouring water on the head; others, immersion in water. This week’s clergy discuss the value of a ceremony that signifies admission to the Christian church.
The Rev. Thomas Cardone
Chaplain, Kellenberg Memorial High School, Uniondale
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) are among the final words of Jesus, before he ascends to heaven. What is Jesus saying? Keep your relationship with me going and ensure that it is a growing missionary relationship with others. How does a Roman Catholic understand the sacrament of baptism? Baptism introduces us into the faith where we die with Christ and rise with him to new life. In baptism we are freed from the power of original sin and become members of the Body of Christ. In class I often tell my students that Christianity is about relationship and that this relationship begins with baptism. In YOUCAT, the Catholic Catechism for youth, [former] Pope Benedict XVI described the importance of our church being in relationship with each other from the first moment of baptism throughout our whole journey of faith. He says, “Through baptism each child is inserted into a gathering of friends who never abandon him in life or in death. . . . This group of friends, this family of God, into which the child is now admitted, will always accompany him, even on days of suffering and in life’s dark nights; it will give him consolation, comfort and light.” Our baptism is about relationship with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the context of our family, the Church.
The Rev. Gary Schulz
Pastor, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bellerose
Baptism’s importance lies in the promise that is attached. This promise is attached to the water poured and the words spoken at one’s baptism. This promise is a declaration of God’s grace. It is this grace that saves, forgives, and gives us a new birth as children of God. Baptism is one of the means by which we, fallen and sinful people, know that God has saved us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism allows us to trust in something more assured than our own actions and failures. It allows us to place our trust and faith in the promise that God makes in baptism. Even faith, the willingness to believe in God and God’s saving acts through Jesus Christ, is given in baptism. It is God who acts first. It is in this act of God that we can trust that even an infant has and can hold onto faith and salvation. Baptism reminds us that it is not our own actions or our goodness that saves, but God’s action and goodness. We, as Christians, trust in the promise, we trust that in baptism, God acts. We also trust that our loving God desires the salvation of all. God may act through other means unknown to us, but we know that in baptism God has promised to act, and for that reason it is important.
The Rev. Canon Winfred B. Vergara
Priest in charge, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Hicksville
Baptism is a basic requirement to become a member of the Christian Church. John the Baptist first instituted baptism among his disciples to be a means of repentance from and forgiveness of sins. He foretold that Jesus Christ was coming to baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16). Though He was without sin, Jesus asked John to baptize him “so as to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Baptism sealed the identity of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God , and those who are baptized in his name will be saved and receive adoption as children of God. Jesus also commanded the apostles to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity. In the Episcopal Church, the baptismal rite includes the renunciation of evil, the acceptance of Jesus Christ and the recitation of the Baptismal Covenant. Among others, the persons being baptized promise “to obey Christ, to devote themselves to prayer and fellowship, to proclaim the Good News by word and example, to love God and neighbor, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305).