I Baptize with Water

An update for readers who are not close friends: This past year I began study to become a Catholic Deacon. One of the things that many of the Deacons I have spoken with have noted is how much they enjoy celebrating Baptisms.

It’s not something I really thought about until the baptism of my Godchild, Noah, some time ago. His grandfather is a Deacon and he baptized him and I imagine that this was a special moment for him.

It made me think about John the Baptist today, who I’m sure knew many of the people who came to him for baptism quite well. He must have been quite touched to be bringing so many of his friends to renew their relationship with God and likely it was an affirmation of his preaching and his good work in the vineyard.

But this line from the Gospel stayed with me today:

“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

I too, will one day baptize people with water–but God does the rest. John’s words here initially strike one as humbleness, but in truth, John just saw things as they are. “I Baptize with water.” God is the one who gives us new life in this Baptism. Our outward sign is nothing if not a sign of God’s presence and saving grace for us.

That’s for US…not merely the newly baptized who indeed becomes a sign for all of us through the experience of our seeing them Baptized. This is why many parishes are moving away from private baptisms and insisting that the sacrament happens at one of the Sunday masses, or minimally, more than one couple comes together for Baptisms monthly and sit together until all the children are baptized.

So in four years or so, I will be looking forward to witness these Baptisms. And in it I will be mindful that I will simply be an agent of God’s grace, leading those present and the newly baptized “to be a witness to a glimpse of God that we are allowed to catch.” (Henri Nouwen)