The Spiritual Family The Work
"Christian, know your dignity!"
Living the Sacrament of Baptism
"I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". When these words were pronounced at our Baptism and the baptismal water was poured over us, most of us were not yet able to think or to talk. We retain no remembrance of this wonderful gift; and yet that event was one of the most momentous in our life. Faith tells us: by means of this holy sacrament we were taken up into the life of the Triune God.
Mother Julia Verhaeghe (1910-1997), Foundress of the Spiritual Family The Work, was ever filled with deep gratitude for and wonder at this sacrament. Baptism was for her a living reality influencing her whole life. She bore witness to this with the words:
"This sacrament is fundamental, a door to the other sacraments. Baptized we are enlightened about what we are, members of the Mystical Body of Christ, adopted sons and daughters of God, regenerated in Christ and through Him. What a dignity is bestowed on us! What a gate is opened up for us to the heart of our Father in heaven".
At the threshold of the new millennium, the Church needs faithful souls who understand the greatness of this sacrament, living out its grace in their lives, generating a renewed spirit of evangelization which is so ardently hoped for by the Holy Father. The following reflections may help us to renew our understanding of the importance of this sacrament.
The Catholic Church expresses the mystery of Baptism with the following words: "Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salvation, either by actual reception or at least by desire. By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church. It is validly conferred only by a washing in real water with the proper form of words" (CCC 849).
Sacrament of Forgiveness of Sin
Man enters this world a pauper. Adam and Eve lost the gift of grace, the gift of living in close unity with God, for themselves and for all mankind. In ecclesiastical language this condition of spiritual poverty is termed original sin. The sacrament of Baptism has freed us from this condition. Jesus Christ "was rich, yet he became poor for your sake so that his poverty might make you rich" (2 Cor 8:9). The baptized, whether infant, child or adult, receives the gift of sanctifying grace, the abundance of divine life. If anyone receives Baptism in a state of personal sin this sin is forgiven through the sacrament. Baptism bestows on the baptized the inheritance of the heavenly Kingdom.
A New Creation
St. Paul, who received the gift of Baptism in Damascus, was so overwhelmed at this event, that he wrote later: "For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether - the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new" (2 Cor 5:17). Baptism confers the gift of adoption as a child of God. Through it we became the beloved sons and daughters of God, in whose souls He planted the seeds of holiness and everlasting life. Mother Julia expresses this astounding transformation of our being with the words:
»The Holy Spirit descended on everyone in Baptism as He did at the Baptism of Jesus. And in a mysterious way the words are repeated: My Child you are. With all my love I turn to you. In the water of this sacrament, which has been sanctified by Jesus, I give you new birth«