This weekend, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which concludes the Christmas season and begins Ordinary Time. It is a good occasion to reflect upon the continual effect of baptism upon us. For, while we receive baptism only once in our lives, the effects are meant to continue throughout this life and into eternity. Thus, when we bless ourselves with holy water upon entering or leaving a church, we are meant to be reminded of our baptismal calling and receive the strength and grace to carry it out. The Catechism describes five effects of baptism for all Christians and an additional effect for Catholics. See Catechism 1262 – 1271.
First, baptism gives us forgiveness of sins, both original sin and personal sins. In this earthly pilgrimage, we then strive to remain free from sins so that we can live as sons and daughters of God. Gaining this status as sons and daughters of God is the second effect of baptism. And as such, we are in training each day to become princes and princesses of the celestial realms. The third effect of baptism is that we are given the virtues of faith, hope and charity, through which we have a personal relationship with God, in our intellect, plans and desires.
Through prayer and openness to the will of God, we are meant daily to develop this relationship, not merely as an abstract statement of beliefs, but rather a life with God through Jesus Christ. And this treasure of friendship with God is not only for ourselves, but is rather to be shared with other people and in union with the Church. And so the fourth effect of baptism is an openness to the Holy Spirit, through which we bring the kingdom of God to the world, as assuredly as the first Christians did after Pentecost. And we make this light shine on in the world not only by words, but also by our deeds and view of others, which implies the fifth result of baptism, while the moral virtues are available to all people, Christian or non-Christian, baptism also confirms these virtues, which are ways of being an excellent human being, and thus helps the light of Christ shine on more in our lives.
Finally, a Catholic baptism in particular makes a person a member of the Catholic Church and thus a full part of the kingdom of God on earth, united with the faithful throughout time and space. It is important to remember daily each one of these effects and ask how it is that we are living them out in practice on this journey into the love of God.