Know Your Faith!

    Why do many non-Catholic Christian denominations not accept the ancient, Catholic practice of infant baptism? Let me cite just two reasons:

    For them, faith is a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ (ref Dut 6:5; Mt 16:24-25; Mt 22:37-38), and baptism is the symbol of that commitment. And so, for them, it makes no sense to baptize a baby who is too young to be able to make a personal commitment. Of course, they are forgetting that faith is much more than just a personal commitment though it is certainly nothing less.

    Faith is first and foremost a gift of God, a gift of God's grace. This is the difference between faith and self-help. It means not putting ourselves first, instead God's love is first. Jesus saved us while we were still sinners, and his saving love changed our hearts - not the other way around. When we baptize babies that's what we are focusing on: God's unconditional generosity in offering us salvation not as a reward for something we did, but purely out of love.

    The Gospels tell us that parents brought their children to Jesus so that he could lay hands on them and pray for them (Mat 19:13), even though the children couldn't ask for themselves. Just so, Catholic parents, through the sacrament of baptism, ask God for his gift of grace for their newborns, who are too young to ask for it themselves. So the non-Catholic Christians who criticize infant baptism are confused about that point, they are forgetting that friendship with Christ begins with God's free gift of grace.

    They may be right in their argument on infant baptism because some Catholics are so often caught up in external rituals that they sometimes neglect their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Parents who have their children baptized, for example, but then never teach their children how to practice their faith through prayer and attending Sunday Mass are not doing their job as they need to be. Those parents just leave their children only to God's grace without any personal commitment. In such cases, our non-Catholic brethren might be right and could call us to task for it.

  2. Baptismal grace:
    Children need baptismal grace for salvation, because they inherit original sin from the moment of conception. St Paul tells us that "through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death" (Rom 5:12). He does not say that this sin is manifested only when the person reaches the age of reason. Rather, he writes, before baptism "we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest" (Eph 2:3). Jesus said that the kingdom of God also belongs to children (see Mt 18:4; Mk 10:14).He never put an age limit upon those eligible to receive his grace (Lk 18:15-17; Mt 18:2-5).

    St. Paul baptizes Lydia with "her household" (Acts 16:15); the entire household of Cornelius (Acts 10:48; 11:14); the Philippian jailer "and all his family" (Acts 16:33); and the "household of Stephanus" (1 Cor 1:16). In none of these accounts is there ever any indication that infants and children are excluded from baptism. Infant baptism was practiced from the apostolic times until the present day.

    Further, we know that baptism is the gateway to heaven. What happens to the soul of an infant when the child is not baptized? It is the will of the Father that all must be saved.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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