Continuing from yesterday’s post about 8 January 1917…
Our visitor from the sky was back again today repeating his old trick, with the same success, this time against one of our captive balloons. It was a thrilling sight to see the huge bag of fire gas burst into fire as the bullets hit it, and more thrilling still to watch the two unfortunate occupants of the car jump for their lives, fall like stones through the air, more rapidly each second till, with an intense gasp of relief, we saw the parachute open and both men land unhurt in safety.
It is useful from time to time to pause and ask ourselves if we are, like the child Jesus, growing in wisdom and grace. Does each evening see us farther on the path of perfection, holier in the eyes of the heavenly court, more pleasing and dearer to God?
COMMENT: Today is the feast of the Baptism of Jesus, and it gives us an opportunity to consider the grace of our own baptism and its implications for us. Our Lord did not need to be baptised, but we do. Baptism is a sacrament of extraordinary importance. Unfortunately today it can be often seen as a naming ceremony, a day out and a day of welcoming a child into a local community. Yes, these things are good, and they are all a part of what baptism is, but they are not the important part of baptism, and we somewhat miss the point if this is where it all begins and ends for us.
Baptism is the sacrament in which we become the adopted sons and daughters of God. It is, in fact, the sacrament in which the seed of all the graces of our life has been planted in our soul. Our entire life, then, is a campaign to cultivate that grace and to eradicate those faults that would seek to strangle it.
The great Irish spiritual writer Blessed Columba Marmion has written beautifully on this theme. The following excerpts come from his classic book Christ the Life of the Soul:
We lost everything at once by a single fault of Adam, but in baptism God does not give us back at once all the integrity of the Divine gift. In order that it may be a source of merit because of the effort it calls forth, He leaves us in concupiscence, the source of sin, which tends to diminish or destroy the Divine life. Therefore our whole existence ought to be the realisation of what baptism inaugurates…Grace is the principle of life in us, but it is a germ we must cultivate; it is that kingdom of God within us that Our Lord Himself compares to a grain of mustard seed which becomes a great tree. So it is with the Divine life in us…
Let us often renew the virtue of this sacrament of adoption and initiation by renewing the promises made in baptism, so that Christ, born in our souls in faith upon that day, may grow more and more in us. That is a very useful practice of piety…stir up in yourselves the grace received at baptism, by renewing the promises then made. For example, when after Communion, while Our Lord is really present in our hearts, we renew with faith and love our dispositions of repentance, of renunciation of Satan, sin and the world, so as to attach ourselves only to Christ and His Church, then the grace of baptism springs up from the depth of our souls, where the character of baptism remains indelibly engraved. And this grace produces, through the virtue of Christ, Who dwells in us with His Spirit, as it were a new death to sin, a new inflowing of Divine life, a new intensity of union with Jesus Christ.
So often we forget the magnificence of the sacrament of baptism. Indeed, how many know that the Church grants a plenary indulgence if we renew our baptismal promises on the anniversary of our baptism? How many of us even know the date of our baptism?
As Fr Doyle suggests, each evening should see us having cultivated the grace of baptism just a little bit more that day.