By Father Juan Pedro Gonzalez
Dear brothers and sisters, the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.
Today, we have a great need in our life of faith; I speak of the importance of baptizing children. We must all belong to Christ, so we may be sons in the Son and receive the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to meditate on and scrutinize sacred Scripture, opening our hearts to the light of the Church’s teaching to live united in the same faith, love, and spirit.
From the earliest years, the Catholic Church offered children the sacrament of baptism, for it is of great importance that we all belong to Christ. On the same day of Pentecost, St. Peter says: “Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 2:38-41) It is through Jesus that we are united to the Father and the Holy Spirit, the indivisible unity of the Holy Trinity. In this passage, we are shown that Jesus establishes the sacrament of baptism so that we all receive the Holy Spirit and the condition of Christianity. It should be noted that this passage contains the oldest formula of baptism.
In the oldest document (Didache, 7:1-3, or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles), written in the first century, we are given prayers and principles of the Christian life. This document tells us that baptism: “May be in running water. But if you have no running water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.” The text assumes that the ideal way is still immersion, but recognizes baptism by infusion. The importance of water in baptism is that it purifies us.
In Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus came to be baptized. He is the way, the truth, and the life, the Holy of Holies. He did not sin. John objected, saying, “I need to be baptized by you.” But Jesus replied, “For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” In this passage, he manifests a theophany, or Trinitarian manifestation. Jesus did not need conversion (Jn 3:22), for he was clean from sin, but he wanted to stand in solidarity with sinners, and “he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity” (Is 53:6), fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.
The baptism of children has been practiced since the beginning of the Church of Christ. This is what Acts 16:15 tells us “After she and her household had been baptized.” It also tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:16, “I baptized the household of Stephanas also,” knowing the family tradition of that time, the household included parents and children. Thus, everyone received baptism. Finally, in the second century, it was said that the Church had never had a baptismal rite expressly designed for these cases. However, it has adapted the rite of baptism for adults to infants. (c.f. Tertullian, De baptismo, 18) Baptism is precisely to cleanse us from original sin and give us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38); it gives us the grace to be sons of the Son. Jesus provides the authority to baptize, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Mt 28:19) God bless us.
Originally published in the Summer 2023 edition of the Catholic East Texas.