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Baptism Is a Subversive Act

Each and every baptism is a subversive act.

Baptismal photograph of Deacon Eric with great-grandmother Jesús García de Alvarado, grandmother María Lucia Alvarado de Dunham, and mother Rosemary Dunham Stoltz at Holy Family Church in Glendale, Calif.

Baptismal photograph of Deacon Eric with great-grandmother Jesús García de Alvarado, grandmother María Lucia Alvarado de Dunham, and mother Rosemary Dunham Stoltz at Holy Family Church in Glendale, Calif.

When it comes to the baptism of a child, we have many lovely traditions. The whole family is invited. The baby is all dressed up in a beautiful white outfit. Sometimes it’s an heirloom lace gown that’s used for both boys and girls—that’s really an alb for a baby, the same white garment that symbolizes baptism worn by clergy and altar ministers during the liturgy. And of course there’s always the party afterwards, the pictures that will be treasured for years and that little candle tucked away in a box of memories.

Sometimes these lovely traditions can obscure the fact that each and every baptism is a subversive act. It is a counter-cultural statement, an act of revolution against the status quo.

When we have our child baptized, we say to the world: Enough of your wars and greed and violence and revenge and torture and racism and homophobia and self-worship and sexism and xenophobia. It stops here with me and my family. We choose the path of Christ and his commandment of love. You will not find allies in this house, you may not have me or my child. We belong to God, who is love.

Each and every baptism is a covenant made real in our own lives. God chooses us to save the world, and we choose God to make our lives whole. At the end of the baptism rite, when those children, their parents and their godparents stand before the assembly, they have become the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a city on a hill. They are priests, prophets and kings anointed to save the world. Upon each of them our hopes and dreams are placed.

And if the baptism of a child truly reaches our hearts, we must always ask ourselves how we have lived up to our own baptism. Do I embrace the status quo or seek to change it? Do I hear the cry of the poor and outcast? And if I don’t, what does my own baptism mean to me?

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