Share this story

 | By Father John G. McDonald

The Sacrament of Baptism

An End of Sin and a New Beginning of Goodness

A Seven-part Series on the Sacraments of the Catholic Church

For those who are regular Sunday Mass-goers, I think it might be interesting to come to any number of our parishes on Saturday mornings to see the activities that are taking place when everyone else thinks no one is there. Saturday morning is a popular time to schedule a baptism, and throughout our diocese, there are many, many baptisms taking place virtually every Saturday and on other days as well. Faithful families bring their beloved children to the Church to ask for the gift of faith and for the grace of baptism to sanctify their child. Adults, too, often come to the Church asking for baptism when their journey of faith helps them realize they need the sanctifying grace of a sacrament that makes them a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

In the Bible, God breathes on the waters to create life, and later we see the Great Flood as the moment in which God uses His gift of water to make an end of wickedness and a new beginning of goodness. God brought Noah and his family through the waters of the Flood through the safety of the ark. Later on, God would shepherd His people through the Red Sea dry-shod, and then the waters of the sea protected them from the enemies who pursued them. Moses struck a rock in the desert, and out flowed water to sustain the people of God in their thirst. After the birth of Jesus, we see Jesus step down into the Jordan River, making it holy by His presence. The voice of the Father and the Holy Spirit are also present, and the waters of baptism are given to us through Jesus.

Jesus teaches His disciples to “go out to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Finally, we see that in giving Himself in love for us on the Cross, both blood and water flow from His side to further teach us the power of His sacrificial act.

All of these powerful moments in the Scriptures come together in the sacrament of baptism. As Catholics, we celebrate the sacrament of baptism for infants or for adults, for every condition of the human person imaginable. All that is required for baptism is the human person, enough water to run on its own, and someone to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Priests and deacons are the ordinary celebrants of this sacrament, but any person who intends to do what the Church intends to do by baptizing can baptize in emergency circumstances. We celebrate baptism as a visible sign of a heavenly reality that gives us grace to wipe away the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Also, if we have our own sins, they, too, are wiped away and replaced by a grace which sanctifies us and makes us holy, incorporating us into the Mystical Body of Christ.

Perhaps most distinctively, Catholics do not celebrate baptism as a sacrament based solely on our personal choice and perfect comprehension of the grace we receive. Just as we are born into families and live a life in connection with those around us, we are baptized into the family of the Church, and the gift of faith is something shared with us often by our families, parents, and godparents. Baptism leads us to Holy Communion, because it places us in intimate connection with one another not only on the level of the flesh, but also the level of the soul. After baptism, our soul bears the seal of the Holy Trinity, and it becomes our goal in this life to live fully that communion of the three persons of the Trinity who dwell in us.

Father John G. McDonald is currently pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Anniston. He was principal and then president of John Carroll Catholic High School from 2008 to 2016, and he served as the Carl J. Peter Chair of Homiletics at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2016 to 2019.