THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
24 June 2018
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Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus' precursor. He was a near relative of Jesus, but his true merit is in the fact that he preached penance as well as a baptism of repentance. With the very name of "John" history automatically adds, "the Baptist." It is true that this was not the sacramental baptism that imparts sanctifying grace by removing sin, and incorporates us into the Mystical Body of Christ the Catholic Church; but the baptism of John was a precursor of sacramental baptism as John was the precursor of Jesus.
St. John has prepared the way for Jesus, and for sacramental baptism. The Church owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for this. Baptism is the key or, at least, the first step in the salvation of all who are to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ has made this very clear when He commissioned His Apostles to preach to all nations. "Those who believe and are baptized will be saved." (St. Mark 16,16)
There is much more to this sacrament than most people think about. In the ceremony the person being baptized is asked (directly or indirectly through Godparents) if he believes. He recites the Apostles Creed in which various essential doctrines are professed through faith. It is only after this profession that the sanctifying water is imparted to him with the accompanying words: "I baptize (here we insert the person's name or we may use the second person pronoun ‘you') in the Name of the Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost."
Accompanying this profession of Faith, (or more appropriately as part of it) there is incorporated in the ceremony a formal renunciation of the devils and all their works as well as all the empty pleasures they may offer us. This is reminiscent of the baptism of St. John because in penance we are rejecting the pleasures of the devils as well as the very devils themselves.
As we, hopefully, can see there is much more to baptism than washing with water. It is not just the physical action that washes away sin, and incorporates us into the Church and therefore instills grace and spiritual life. Once again, Jesus predicated baptism and salvation with the words: "Those who believe." Faith is an essential element. St. Paul tells us that "Faith comes from hearing." (Romans 10, 17) This is why Jesus sent the Apostles into the world to preach all that Jesus had taught them.
If we are to be saved we must be baptized, to be baptized we must repent and believe, to believe we must hear the teachings of Jesus Christ. These are the precursors to baptism, just as St. John was the precursor to Jesus Christ. It is erroneous to believe that we can administer the water and words of the sacrament to everyone indiscriminately without first obtaining the acceptance of the true Faith and its concomitant part the rejection of demons and the false pleasures they offer. In emergencies, or when the person to be baptized is unable to speak the very words of renunciation of sin and acceptance of Faith, we may presume the person would consent if they were able, and proceed with administering the sacrament. If the person, or those physically responsible for him, object to baptism or reject the Faith, it would be an abuse of the sacrament to administer it in these conditions. There would be no forgiveness of sin because there is no repentance or rejection of sin. There would be no grace given as there is no profession of belief or of Faith.
The Church rejects all non-Catholics as Godparents because they cannot profess the true Faith in their false religion. They cannot, therefore, speak truly the necessary profession of Faith for a child. Neither can they assure the correct Faith will be imparted and nourished in the spiritual life of the person baptized. Being a Godparent, speaking for another and assuring the rejection of sin and the profession of Faith, is a very serious obligation and should not be taken lightly. It is not the simple social honor that so many have made of it in these days.
Faith and rejection of sin is the essential prerequisite element in baptism. Hence, where physical baptism is impossible, it is possible to obtain the grace of baptism through the true desire for it. This desire is often referred to as "Baptism of Desire." Similar to this is the grace that may be obtained in dying a martyr's death. Dying for Jesus is a perfect profession of Faith. The grace obtained in this manner is often called the "Baptism of Blood." While these are not sacramental baptisms and sacramental baptism must be administered later if time is given, these, nonetheless, give grace. Jesus has told us that God accepts the desire for the deed. (St. Matthew 5, 22-28)
May St. John the Baptist, interceded for us, that we may truly appreciate and love the sacrament of baptism that he helped to prepare, and obtain for us the grace to always be faithful to our baptismal vows.
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