A young mother entered the ambo to deliver the first reading at daily Mass when her 1-year-old daughter, being held by another woman, began crying and reaching out for her mama. The serene mother stepped back, swept the babe into her arms, returned to the ambo and gracefully proclaimed the word of the Lord. So fresh, this baby girl is already being immersed into the faith.
On this Sunday, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we celebrate Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, while reflecting on the importance of our own baptism. Pope Benedict XVI explained, “Basically, the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term: baptism, which in Greek means ‘immersion.’ The Son of God … was ‘immersed’ in our reality as sinners to make us share in his own life.” Jesus’ baptism immersed him into humanity — unto death; our baptism immerses us into divinity — unto eternity.
Baptism literally means to be immersed into the life of Christ. Immersion implies a totality. Immersed. Plunged. Sunk. Absorbed. All. The whole of life. Immersed to die and rise in Christ. Immersed in Christ’s life for every moment, activity, word and deed. As we enter the church, we immerse our hand into the font, remembering our entire being forever belongs to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Immersion in a foreign country proves the best way to learn a language; immersion in a faith community, whether the church community for a catechumen or the family community for a child, provides the soundest way to absorb the faith. One “swims” in the faith before acquiring faith; therefore, parents are primary for passing on the faith. A parent’s major task, before all else, is to immerse the child into the faith — surround him or her with God’s love. Faith lived in the home, day in and day out, from dawn to dusk, brings the child to Christ. Faith transmits when imbued in everything we do from the books we read, conversations held, stories shared, celebrations had — all done with, and leading to, faith in Jesus Christ. Faith must be as natural as the air we breathe — necessary to exist, to live, to love, to be!
As parents and grandparents, we provide fertile ground for faith by immersing our children in God’s love — by forgiving readily, apologizing easily, gathering for family meals, attending Mass weekly, praying and playing together daily, celebrating the saints, reading good literature, teaching Gods’ commandments, sharing with the poor, working for justice, and speaking of their goodness as God’s beloved sons and daughters. The New Year opens time to reflect on our own baptism: is my every thought, every word and every action directed to him and his love?
I have always appreciated baptism by submersion, when the priest immerses an adult into the swirling waters. My most memorable Easter Vigil occurred when our pastor plunged each catechumen into the baptismal waters and beamed as each man or woman arose from the waters catching his or her breath — rising as a new creation! The beautiful baby from the opening story was baptized with only a few drops of water gently poured over her head, but I predict she will accept an adult faith as her parents are already immersing her in God’s love at church and in their home — the domestic church. Now, that’s good news!
How will you be more intentional at immersing your child or grandchild in the faith?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.