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Baptism of the Lord

Have you experienced standing in as godparent to a child’s baptism? Since I was ordained a priest, almost all my neighbor’s kids became my godchildren. A Filipino baptism is a sight to behold; a truly exciting event. Every godparent relishes the experience; even guests feel honored to be invited.

It is due to this excitement that often, we neglect the real meaning of the Sacrament of Baptism. Today, as we reflect on the Baptism of the Lord, we re-visit the significance of this religious experience. The gospel shows Jesus baptized by John his cousin, and the Holy Spirit descends on him. This presence of the Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

In baptism, we too, are revealed as children of God. We, adopted children, are placed alongside Jesus, the natural Son of God. At baptism, we formally receive a name: Carlos, I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. From now on, you have a name. You are not an ‘it’ or a ‘hey’. You have a proper name known to God.

Names given in baptism must show a connection to the life of faith. Sadly, Filipinos invent names that have cute, foreign sounds. A girl is called ‘Queencylin’ – sounds like medicine; CY Gabriel – a soap brand?; Cheeky Girl – a famous dance step. One girl was called Sapphire – a stone – while a boy was named Nemo – a cartoon character! What happened to the classic names that derive from faith and history – Juan Carlos, Paulo, Cristina, Felisa, Maria and Jose. Or the traditional names that refer to shining character – Liwayway, Luningning, Magiting, etc. A Christian’s name must reveal a Christian trait. It is a reminder of his connection to God, his Father.

The principal effect of Baptism is our being made son or daughter of God and this must be seen even in the name we receive. Another effect is membership in the family of God. That explains the reason why we have godparents. Again, we must begin to question our basis of selecting godparents.

Some parents choose only rich people for obvious reasons. Others choose their circle of friends to cement relationships. Politicians are invited to ensure favors for the family. There are 3, 12, 20 pairs of godparents – the more, the merrier!

Godparents have an important role in guiding the children in Christian life. We cannot assign this role to a non-Catholic who will not transmit the same faith. Nor should this role be given to someone whose life is not edifying and worth emulating. It is not the number of pairs or the capacity to bestow gifts that matter. We should not turn baptism into a business venture for our families.

In baptism we are invited to return to the original intention of God – to lead people to sonship in his family, a nurturing and inspiring family. Baptism is very important. Let us return to its meaning and desire to do the will of God in our celebration.