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The Sacraments Instituted By Christ…. The Effects Of The Sacrament Of Baptism

December 10, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 6

What does Baptism do, anyway? Isn’t it just a ceremony? No, it is not. The first, primordial effect of Baptism is to give sanctifying grace, a participation in the Life of God Himself: the indwelling of the Holy Trinity in the soul of the child or adult being baptized. It is never enough to point out that Baptism is not just a ceremony to join the local parish. No, through Baptism we are given a new birth: By our natural birth, we are children of our parents, by our spiritual or supernatural birth in Baptism, we become children of God and heirs to His Kingdom. This is effected by sanctifying grace.
But that is not all. Virtues and gifts accompany sanctifying grace: first of all, the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity (cf. 1 Cor. 13:13). It is through these virtues that we are able to believe in God (faith), hope in Him (hope), and love Him (charity). Without the virtue of faith, we are not able to make a true act of faith in God. Without the virtue of hope we are not able to hope to be saved in the end. Without the virtue of charity we are not able to love God as He wants to be loved by us.
Charity is not merely to give good things to our neighbor; it is, first and foremost, the love of God and, consequently, of our neighbor.
God’s love for us does not stop here: Baptism gives us also the seeds of the moral virtues, virtues that enable us to grow in goodness, especially by the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. At the same time, we are given the power to live and act under the divine prompting through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
As you see, there is a lot to gain with Baptism. That is why Jesus gave to His apostles the explicit commandment to go and preach to all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teaching them to observe everything He had commanded them.
That is also why we must make every effort to support the Church’s missions, not only in the countries of Africa and Asia, but also in our own cities, where so many people remain unbaptized and un-catechized due to the growing neo-pagan culture that afflicts the Western nations — the United States included.
Let us move on and inquire about what is the first effect of the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul of the person being baptized: The first effect is the removal of every trace of sin, original and actual, and the extinguishing of any debt of temporal punishment which we may have incurred through actual sin committed before Baptism.
Let us get into a little more detail here. We inherit original sin from our first parents, Adam and Eve. It is not a sin that we have committed, of course; it is a sin that deprives Adam’s children of several important gifts he had received, such as infused knowledge and immortality. Those gifts were given to our first parents, and by their disobedience they lost it. They were not part of our nature; they were free gifts given over and above our natural gifts.
A simple example will illustrate the point: Suppose your parents were given a great deal of money by a charitable donor, plus a manor house and lands, and adopted your family to be part of his own. A series of totally gratuitous gifts, as your parents did nothing to deserve them. And you became the heir of the property. There was only one condition: that your parents did not gamble with the money, because the donor believed in honest work and hated gambling.
But then your parents got carried away and went to Las Vegas to bet in the various casino machines and in card games. They squandered lots of money there. The donor was unhappy about that, and took away the rest of the fortune, the manor house, and the lands. He also disinherited them, because they proved unworthy of belonging to his family.
Consequence: You inherited nothing, only his displeasure regarding your family.
Original sin is a bad inheritance, and the inheritance of a great loss. The only way to get you back to the donor’s family is called Baptism. And through Baptism the generous donor accepts you back into his family as an adoptive child.

A Permanent Change

A word about the sacramental “character”: We have already seen that some sacraments can be received only once, in life, because they imprint a character in the soul of the person who received them. A sacramental character is a permanent change made in the soul, specially fitting it for spiritual work. As we can be born only once of our natural parents, so we can be born only once into the Church of God.
Therefore, since Baptism imprints a character, it cannot be repeated. It can be received only once.
By the baptismal character we are made members of the Body whose head is Christ. That is, we become citizens and subjects of the Church, and sharers in the priestly, prophetic, and royal mission of Jesus Christ; we become capable of receiving the other sacraments. The character is indelible, which means that it is permanent at least for this life; the teaching that it is permanent also for the life to come, though not defined, is regarded as certain.
Can a Baptism be invalid? Yes, it can. An invalid Baptism is a ceremony in which the requirements made by Jesus Christ and His Church are not present. This kind of invalid Baptism can be found in certain fringe Protestant groups and modern sects. It is either because they do not baptize at all, or because they have changed the trinitarian formula given by Jesus Himself.
Among them are Quakers, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Salvation Army, Christian Scientists, Christadelphians, Pentecostals, and the New Church (of Emanuel Swedenborg). Baptisms in those sects are not valid, and their members remain unbaptized until they receive the sacrament in the way Jesus wanted it to be ministered.
Next article: Further commentary on the Sacrament of Baptism.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. He is a militant pro-life writer and apologist, addressing live audiences and delivering talks on television, radio, and online. To date he has given over 2,500 presentations in 38 countries of the six continents. He is available to speak at Catholic events, both large and small, anywhere in the Free World, in four languages — English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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