As we come to the midpoint of our Year of Baptism and St. John the Baptist in the Diocese of Tyler, I want to reflect with you on the baptismal promises that are part of the rites of baptism and confirmation. Celebrating the sacrament of confirmation on an almost daily basis during the Easter season and throughout the summer keeps the baptismal promises fresh in my mind. These promises are made by the parents and godparents of a child being baptized, and they reflect the creed that we pray at Mass on Sunday.
The baptismal promises remind us that baptism is a way of life that should affect every aspect of our journey through life. There is a tendency for us to think of baptism simply as a one-time ceremony. It is important to emphasize that baptism is so much more than just one beautiful moment, and the baptismal promises can help us with this deeper focus. We have all seen statistics on how many Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. This is certainly troubling, as it should be, but we also need to be aware of how many baptized Catholics never take the baptismal promises seriously. If such a survey were taken, it is likely that the results would be startling as well.
The promises begin with a question that may be surprising at first. Upon further reflection, I think you will agree that it gets to the very heart of what it means to be baptized. The first question is about the renunciation of Satan and his empty promises. It truly lays the foundation for the next four questions and in the world today it is a question that we need to take quite seriously. As I address this question when I celebrate confirmations, I emphasize that Jesus Christ has conquered Satan. This emphasis is important. We need to be aware of evil, but always with the proper understanding that evil has been vanquished by Christ. The image of the Immaculate Virgin Mary crushing the head of Satan also reminds us that he has power in our lives only if we give it to him. The forces of evil are quite real and active in our world, but we always remember that in Christ we are freed from evil, sin, and death.
The questions then move on to God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of the three persons of the Holy Trinity is addressed in a separate question, and the questions offer some attributes of what it means to believe in our Triune God. I recommend reflecting on these questions because they can be helpful in coming to know the three persons of the Holy Trinity more intimately. The beauty of God, as a community of persons, is a profound gift that nurtures all of us in our faith journey.
The final question asks if we believe in the holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints. I see great wisdom in this final question and embedded in it is the emphasis that baptism is not an isolated moment but the beginning of a journey in the mystical body of Christ, that is the Church. Ultimately, any renewal of baptismal promises challenges us to ask ourselves if we have entered into relationships with our brothers and sisters who are baptized.
These questions can remind us that all the challenges we face in life can be traced back to how well we live our baptismal promises. All of us can humbly acknowledge that we have much more work to do, but I pray our renewal of our baptismal promises can reawaken and deepen the desire in our hearts to know, love and serve God, and to grow in this quest by loving our neighbor more fully.
Originally published in the Summer 2023 edition of the Catholic East Texas.