PREACHING AT INFANT BAPTISM OF ONE CHILD (CECILIA) APART FROM THE
BY FR EMMANUEL OCHIGBO
BIBLICAL READING: MATTHEW 28:18-20
Jesus said to the Eleven disciples, All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS: OUR PASSWORD
Little Joe was in a public elementary school and he was doing very poorly. His grades were getting worse by the day. At home, he was not behaving well. He would not pick up after himself, he would not go on errands, he would not do his homework, and he would talk back at his mom. His mom shared her concern about Joe with her friend, who advised her to move him to a Catholic school. One month into the Catholic elementary school, Joe’s mom began to notice tremendous improvements in his grades and his behavior at home. She then asked him, “Joe, I have recently noticed great improvements in your grades and your behavior. Tell me, what is responsible for these changes?” Joe replied, “Mom, the first day I went to the Catholic school, in my classroom, on the wall, I saw a young man hanging on the cross. Then, it dawned on me that people do not mess around here.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, we gather here today because we know that the life that we have is a special gift from God to us, and that we must not mess around with this gift. We need to return this gift to God in good condition at the end of our sojourn here on earth. God created us out of love. In our first parents, Adam and Eve, we failed and we fell. This fall brought a chasm between divinity and humanity, between heaven and earth, and between humanity and humanity. Out of love, Jesus came to bridge the gap, to bring about reconciliation. He carried out this great work of reconciliation on the cross, which we commemorate every Good Friday. The cross has the vertical component, which is a sign of the bridge or reconciliation between divinity and humanity, between heaven and earth. It has the horizontal component, which is the sign of the bridge or the reconciliation between humanity and humanity. It also has the front and back, reminding us that the past and the future are reconciled in Jesus Christ, who is ever present.
Jesus carried out this great work of reconciliation once and for all. The responsibility is now on us to connect to this great work of reconciliation that Jesus has already done for us. The sacraments serve as avenues where we connect to this great work of reconciliation, which Jesus has done. Today, the Church and all the saints are full of joy because Cecilia, through the sacrament of baptism, will be connected to this great work of reconciliation that Jesus carried out on the cross. At the beginning of this ceremony, I said, “Cecilia, the Church of God receives you with great joy. In her name I sign you with the Sign of the Cross of Christ our Savior.” I then invited you, the parents and godparents to mark the Sign of the Cross on her forehead after me.
The Sign of the Cross is our password as Christians. By signing the cross on Cecilia’s forehead, we are giving her the password she needs to enter into the work of redemption and reconciliation that Jesus has done for her. The sacrament of baptism that she receives today will make her a child of God by adoption. Jesus Christ is the only Son of God by nature, and through his work of redemption, we become children of God by adoption when we receive the sacrament of baptism.
Joyce and Luke (parents of Cecilia), Amber and Mark (godparents of Cecilia), in the name of the Church, I thank and congratulate you. By bringing Cecilia for baptism today, you are fulfilling the missionary mandate of Jesus to his disciples to baptize all the nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You remember the joy that the birth of Cecilia has brought to your family and friends; that is the joy her baptism is bringing to the Church and all the Saints.
Your responsibility for Cecilia did not end with her birth; you continue to nurture her. In the same way, your responsibility for her soul will not end after the water of baptism is poured on her head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You must continue to nurture her soul even as you provide for her temporal nourishment. You have marked her with the Sign of the Cross, do not wait for too long to start teaching her how to sign herself with the same sign. This sign is her password to enter into the redemptive work that Jesus Christ has done for her. With this sign, she will always begin and conclude her prayers. This sign will remind her of the challenges she will face in her Christian life. This sign will remind her to never mess around with the gift of life she has received from God. This sign will also warn all evil forces to never mess with her; for as scripture says, “Touch not my anointed ones, and do my prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15).
The Christian calling is a great responsibility; it has its challenges. According to Pope Benedict XVI, “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” As you carry on with this great responsibility that God has entrusted to you, I say to you, parents, godparents, family members and friends of Cecilia, fear not, for Jesus has already promised us in the gospel passage we just read that he will be with us until the end of the age. May we also remain with him until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.