I had the great pleasure of helping to welcome several young children into the Catholic Church today. I love attending baptisms. They are such hope-filled occasions. Each of the persons being baptized has a role to play in our Church. They were sent here by God for a particular purpose and our Church is not complete without each one of them.
The presiding priest did a wonderful job of explaining each part of the ceremony. When he was about to anoint the children with the sacred chrism, he described how this set the child apart and united them with Jesus’ mission as priest, prophet and king.
What does it mean to be “set apart?” Cheryl Dickow tackles that question in Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman's Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past. She describes how in the “Old Testament people and things had often been set aside for specific purposes. . . priests were ‘set aside’ for specific duties. Utensils, vessels, and garb that were meant for service at the altar of the temple were ‘set apart’ and would not to be implemented elsewhere.” Dickow goes on to explain how in the New Testament, St. Peter encourages the newly baptized to be “set apart for God’s purpose.”
Our baptism should matter. It isn’t merely a one time event. Admittedly, like the children who became part of the Church today, most of us don’t remember our reception of the sacrament. Our parents and Godparents made a commitment to the faith for us. Yet, even though we were unaware, the sacrament still changed us forever.
Baptism not only wipes away original sin (as well as any sins that have been committed by the individual), “but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1265)
After being baptized and anointed, the child or adult being baptized puts on a white garment, which emphasizes this fundamental change. “The person baptized has ‘put on Christ,’ has risen with Christ. . . The baptized are ‘the light of the world.’” (CCC 1243)
As Christians, we are called to be set apart. We are called to holiness, to live according to the teachings of Christ. We should be different from the world at large. People should be able to tell that we are Christian by the way that we live our lives.
Do we live out that call to be “set apart?” How can we improve the way we live out our baptismal commitment?