Things happen when Jesus is ‘at prayer’. ‘At prayer’ for Jesus is definitely not about a cozy chat with the Father but about the possibility of being transformed in such a way as to be open to ‘not my will but yours be done’. This week we are invited to reflect on what it is to be baptized.
I have often wondered what it would be like to be baptized into the Church as an adult rather than as a baby. I have never regretted the fact that my parents and extended family following the long tradition of our Church had me baptized within weeks of being born. I have been fortunate indeed that my understanding of what it means to be baptized has grown and developed over the years. I now know, in a way that I never understood for many years, that I am continually called upon to be baptized rather than simply be a card holding member of the Church.
I was recently asked to officiate at the baptism of a family friend’s child. I was told that they wanted the baptism done by someone they knew and would like to have it done privately. I agreed, provided that they approached the parish priest, also a friend of mine, and got permission. After a little discussion it was agreed that baptisms really aren’t ‘private affairs’. In fact there were six baptisms that day. The service and the community gathered together proved very powerful indeed. I took the opportunity to point out that where the Church was concerned the most important thing the parents could do for their children was to love one another. And if they do that they would do something that no school, college or university could ever do. They would teach them the importance of fidelity, of learning to trust, of kindness, of the importance of forgiveness and generosity. In formal religious terms they would give them the gifts of faith, hope and charity. I also pointed out that if we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear then we would ‘see the heavens open, and see the Holy Spirit descend upon each one of the children and hear the voice from heaven say to each one “You are my daughter/son, beloved, my favour rests on you.”
It is easy to say these words it is another thing to allow them to shape your life. In the case of Jesus of Nazareth when he emerged from the baptism of John he began his public ministry how much more so when we emerge from the waters blessed by the fire of the Holy Spirit are we called to live in a more radical way. As I said at the beginning of this reflection it has taken me quite a number of years to come to some understanding of what it means to be baptized and to try to live as a baptized person.
To be baptized either as a adult or as a young person of suitable age certainly offers richer possibilities than being baptized as a child. As the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults reminds us – ‘The Adult is the Norm’. While the ‘normal’ is the child – the ‘Norm’ is the adult. I love the moment when the adult is baptized – it is a definitely a threshold moment. It both confirms and deepens the faith already present in the life of the person. It is obvious that the person being baptized is not just becoming a member of a club but entering a living community of faith. I love the ceremony of clothing the adult with a white garment as a sign of that new life. Each year in the parishes in which I served, to welcome the Elect, the custom grew that all who attended the Easter Vigil would consciously wear something white to indicate putting on Christ. Those who had previously being received into the Church came wearing the white garment that had been out over their shoulders during their reception.
While ‘at prayer’ in Luke’s Gospel Jesus reveals to us something of the mystery of the Trinity and offers a profound reminder that we are all baptized into the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Take time this week and over the coming weeks to reflect on the challenge to live as one baptized into the love of God.
- Reflect on what it is to be plunged into the waters of life rather than standing on the shore and dipping one’s toes into the shallows.
- Ponder on the difference between saying prayers and being ‘at prayer’