St Johns East Malvern

Why bring our children for baptism?

The baptism of infants is founded in the belief that children can enter into the mystery of a special relationship with God at the beginning of their lives, long before conscious commitments are possible.

Some people suggest that to baptise infants before they are able to make decisions for themselves is meaningless or even an imposition of their rights as an individual to reject or accept faith. Why not wait for children to mature and when they believe then they can ask for baptism?

If we followed this line of reasoning, however, we would also wait until our children asked to inoculate them from measles and mumps, or not send them to school until they could understand the benefits of a good education.

For a child to grow up believing they are wanted and loved by God from the moment of their birth is one of the most wonderful gifts we can give our children.

The Church speaks of baptism as a sacrament: an action of God at work in our lives, independent of what we do or who we are. Even before we can ever know and love Him, God loves us and accepts us as we are. Christians believe that if God’s grace operates independent of human actions or consciousness, then that grace is operative in infant baptism.

One does not need to be aware of what it means to be a developing human being in order to be one. Knowledge and awareness come with time. By the same token, one does not have to understand every dimension of Christian faith and life in order to benefit from it. Understanding and acceptance come as the spirit matures in the life of the community of faith.

Moreover, studies confirm how quickly babies develop a notion of ‘self’ and seem to able to grasp abstract ideas about their surrounding environment. Because babies are apparently more ‘brainy’ than was once imagined, their ability to learn about their baptism begins even before words are spoken.

This carries an important message for parents. Since babies have incipient minds they should be stimulated early and every opportunity should be taken to help children feel the significance of their baptism.

All this points to a key understanding of the sacramental nature of baptism: that baptism is not simply an event but the beginning of a life. Baptism is not an end it itself. While baptism marks entry into the Christian community, it is only a beginning. Baptism initiates a lifelong journey of searching and questioning, contending with evil and injustice, giving love and showing mercy, and discovering with joy the unfolding mysteries of life with God.

Of course, baptism demands a personal response on the part of those who are baptised. Baptism is not a divine pass into heaven. It must be followed by a personal awakening to the many gifts of God’s love bestowed upon us throughout our lives and in this great sacrament.