Preachers may sometimes say foolish things. And in our modern era it is sometimes asserted that Jesus stood in need of having his identity as the Son of God revealed to him. As if he did not know who he was before he heard the Father’s voice. The preachers who say such things have forgotten the text of the finding of Jesus in the Temple, which is proclaimed on the Feast of the Holy Family. He said, in response to his Mother, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” You see, he already knows who his Father is, and, therefore, who he is as well.
Pope Pius XII taught, in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, speaking about the knowledge of Jesus: “[T]he most loving knowledge of this kind, with which the divine Redeemer pursued us from the first moment of the Incarnation, surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind; for by that beatific vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself, and embraces them with salvific love... In the manger, on the Cross, in the eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him and joined to Him far more clearly and far more lovingly than a mother has a son on her lap, or than each one knows and loves himself.” This is the teaching of the fathers and the Magisterium. The contrary, that somehow Christ the Savior came to a gradual understanding of his identity as the Son of God or stood in need of having it revealed to him was a notion rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Pope Paul VI, in 1966, following the Second Vatican Council.
Jesus underwent John’s baptism for our sake. We are born into this world under a twofold darkness: sin and ignorance. Of course, we are not born under personal sin for which we are personally accountable, but rather the condition of original sin. The human person was created to reflect the glory of God, to be radiantly filled with God’s grace. Due to the sin of our first parents, they were unable to hand on the gift of this light to their descendants. The sacrament of baptism restores this light in us, making it possible to share that light in our world and to stand one day basking in the eternal beauty of God illumined by the ray of his love. We are also born with ignorance about our Creator and about ourselves. Although, by the light of natural human reason, we can come to know with certainty the existence of a God who created us, we cannot, apart from revelation, come to know him as a Triune God. And we only partake of his own inner life when we have been justified by his grace. Through baptism God gives to us the image of his Only Begotten Son, the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, so that we may know that we are God’s own beloved children – more than just merely his creatures. Baptism is the necessary remedy for our condition. And it was personally instituted by our Savior, and given as a command to his Apostles as their mission into the world, and, therefore, it is also necessary because he wills it to be so. It is the means by which the love of his Sacred Heart devised to unite all of humanity to himself.
At that brings us to a couple practical points. Firstly, there has arisen a kind of indifference in our modern age to the baptism of children. Even among Catholics, albeit probably not faithfully practicing, there is a more frequent delay in the baptizing of their children. Some even propose the absurd notion of not baptizing their children at all, but allowing them to choose as an adult. The law of the Church (canon 867) is clear: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it.” In no other necessity for life would a parent delay giving to their children whatever was needed. We would not allow our children to grow up without learning to speak under the false impression that they should be able to choose their own natural language. We would not delay proper nutrition, schooling, discipline or any of the many other necessary means of providing for them a proper life. And any parent that would refuse the basic necessities to their children would be morally culpable for it, and criminally so. And yet, with this most necessary sacrament, the importance of which exceeds any other necessity, precisely because it concerns the supernatural life in the here and now, and eternal life hereafter, many parents fail in their serious moral obligation to tender to their children this most precious gift of our Savior.
Secondly, some parents are upset to find out that there exist rules governing whether a child ought to be baptized or who may be the godparents. The law of the Church requires (canon 868) that the parents of the child, or at least one, give their consent to the baptism, and that there is a realistic hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. In order to be considered for the role of godparents (canon 874), the godparents must be appointed by the parents or the parish priest or minister (of the sacrament), and they must be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken. Both parents and godparents proffer a solemn promise to God during the ritual of baptism to guard and foster the light of faith in the soul of the child – a promise for which they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. This is so because of the importance and necessity of the sacrament as instituted by Christ himself. It is not merely a custom, or a cultural affair. And this gift is to be protected in the soul of the child by every means possible.
So today, I invite you during Holy Communion, to pray in thanksgiving for your parents, if they procured so precious a gift for you. And to remember the priest or deacon, or other minister, who bestowed this gift upon you. I also invite you to pray to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament for the gift of grace for those who have not yet received baptism, that they may seek it out, and for those parents who have not completed their moral duties towards their children, that they may no longer keep their children from the loving embrace of their holy Redeemer. For our Savior also said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”