The Sacrament of Baptism & Sanctifying Grace
Today is the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Baptism is the first of the Seven Sacraments, all of which were instituted by Christ. By it we are made members of the Church and heirs of Heaven, and so the day of Baptism is the most important day of our lives, and parents should not delay in having their children receive it. Due to our fallen nature, we are all born in a state of Original Sin; that is without sanctifying grace (the life of God) in us. Baptism fixes this, and if we receive the Sacrament after the age of reason, all our personal sins as well as all due punishment is removed too. In Baptism we receive sanctifying grace into our souls and we are thus born into the supernatural life and become the adopted sons and daughters of God. We need sanctifying grace in our souls to get to Heaven. Think of it like this. We cannot fly by ourselves because it is beyond our natural powers to do so. We need a flying machine. The same is true of the spiritual life. If we rely on our natural powers to get to Heaven after death, we won’t make it. So we have to receive supernatural powers, which are above our human nature, which can only come as a free gift from God. So the most important thing in life is whether or not we have sanctifying grace in our souls, and that sanctifying grace is first given at Baptism. (I know there is also Baptism of Desire and Baptism of Blood. I will expand on this on another occasion). We can lose sanctifying grace through mortal sin, because mortal sin kills the supernatural life in us. This is why Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Confession which is for the forgiveness of sins after Baptism, and if we have any mortal sins, by humbly confessing them and receiving absolution, sanctifying grace is restored to our souls. Dare I say it again, this is why to confess regularly is so important and why it was so disastrous spiritually not to have it freely available during recent lockdowns. We’re talking about eternal life here!
JESUS is the new Adam and the first of a new humanity. As He was baptised in the waters by John, God’s Spirit, like a dove descended on Him and anointed Him, ushering in the start of the new Creation in Christ. And so St Paul can say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). St Mark in today’s Gospel tells us that the heavens were literally “torn asunder” at our Lord’s Baptism, meaning that Heaven is then dramatically opened to us. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) teaches that when Our Lord was baptised by John, He sanctified the waters. As that muddy water from the Jordan poured down over His body, the Spirit of God entered it. No longer would Baptism be merely symbolic (as was the case with John’s baptism). Now it would truly cleanse the soul and fill it with divine life, with sanctifying grace. What was muddy is now the instrument of purity. Divinity enters humanity and we now become sharers in His divinity, thus giving us the ability to enter Heaven.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC