When a cardinal is elected pope, he is asked whether he
accepts the election. At the very moment when he says "yes"
he becomes pope and bishop of Rome. The solemn Mass to
inaugurate His ministry and the insignia he receives at that
Mass display to the world his identity and mission that began
with that "yes" in the locked conclave.
Jesus was the Son of the Father from all eternity, "before
all ages." His baptism in the Jordan River displayed through
sound and symbol who Jesus always was but now is revealed for
all the world to see.
In His baptism in the Jordan, all the signs showed who Jesus
was by nature and they also show what we become by the
sacramental adoption of baptism.
For us, baptism is our entry to new life and to mission. The
Catechism of the Catholic Church calls baptism a "gateway."
It is the gateway to all the other sacraments; to a huge
flood of diverse sacramental graces; to our living union with
Christ; to our membership in the church; to our call to speak
truth and seek justice; to our bridge-building between the
Gospel and our culture; to an eternal life far superior to
The rituals of baptism display these truths. With the pouring
of baptismal water, we are cleansed of original sin. That is
the power of baptismal water. Then we receive what John the
Baptist calls "the fire."
The oil of catechumens gives us strength for the contest of
living the Christian life. The oil of sacred chrism manifests
our sharing in Christ's mission "to comfort, to dispel fear,
to show the glory of the Lord," as Isaiah describes in
today's first reading. The white garment we receive displays
the dignity of our discipleship, our Christian uniform that
will be seen as it is represented by the white cloth that
will cover our remains in church. The lit candle we receive
manifests the light we are called to be in the growing
darkness - light that not only shows the way but also reveals
the dangers along the way. All of this means that baptism is
defined not only by the original sin it takes away but also
by the dignity of the mission it imparts.
By baptism, we are marked forever as Christ's own. That is
why baptism is never repeated but only revived.
Every time we enter or leave church, we sign ourselves with
holy water that represents our baptismal water. On entering
church, we are reminded that baptism is our gateway to the
Mass and sacraments. As we leave the church, the holy water
reminds us of our mission. We enter with water and leave with
If we are looking for a purpose in life, we should remember
that we are baptized into the mission of Christ. If we feel
spiritually alone, we should remember that we are baptized
into membership in a worldwide community of faith called the
church. If we feel that we have drifted too far from the
church, we should remember that the graces, the promises and
the mission given in our baptism do not dissolve but can
always come back to life.
Baptism, therefore, is not simply an isolated moment in a
baby's life. It is a sacrament whose power and purpose last a
lifetime. It is our bridge from earth to heaven.
Fr. Krempa is pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in