By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
When we are baptized we make some promises which are known as Baptismal Promises. We promise to reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. And every year at Easter we renew these baptismal promises. (If we are baptized as infants, our parents make those promises on our behalf during our baptism.) As we grow to adulthood we carry on those promises and renew them every year — to reject Satan, his works and all his empty promises. Whether we are baptized as infants or adults, these promises are part of our commitment to God.
Each of us who is baptized needs to reflect on our baptismal promises and see whether or not we are living up to that commitment of rejecting Satan. For us to live out our baptismal promises we need to make the effort to remain committed by fighting against Satan and all his promises. Our baptismal promises mean that as a Christian and a Catholic I need to struggle and work harder to resist sin. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4).
As humans, we know we are weak, but do we fight our weaknesses or do we allow our weaknesses to fight us? To put it another way: In our attempt to fight against sin, who wins — our human weakness or our ability to withstand sin? Sometimes when we are faced with temptations we give ourselves the excuse of saying, “Well, I’m just human. I’m weak.” And we fall for it! For some of us Catholics the excuse may be, “Well, I can always go to confession, so no worries.” Then we carry out the sin. Of course the sacrament of penance is a very important sacrament of healing in the church, but it must not be taken for granted in this way. True contrition is necessary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (CCC 1451).
If we find ourselves committing the same sin repeatedly without making any effort to stop it, then we should question our commitment to our baptismal promises. Our goal should be to resist such persistent sin so that we can pat ourselves on the back and say, “I feel so good because, with God’s grace, today I’m able to resist it. I’m able to say ‘no’ to the sin.” In keeping to our baptismal promises let us be deliberate in fighting against temptation, deliberate in standing against sin. And whenever we are able to triumph against temptation and sin, let us rejoice, let us not hide our joy. We should lift our hands in joy and say, “I did it. I was able to say ‘no’!” Any win against Satan is a victory worth celebrating.
During the baptism of Jesus a voice came from heaven, the voice of God proclaiming to the world: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). This expresses to us how God wants to feel about us, his baptized children — he wants to be pleased with us. We are to live our baptismal promises in such a way that every day when God looks at us, he will say, “Yes, this is my beloved son/daughter and I’m exceedingly pleased with him/her” because we have rejected Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. That is our baptismal calling. That is how we should make God feel every day — proud of us! God wants to be proud of his children; remember how he boasted about Job? “The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘Roaming the earth and patrolling it.’ The LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil’” (Job. 1:6-8). God wants to feel so pleased with us that he can say, “Here is my servant who has been faithful in keeping his baptismal promises.”
Very soon we shall enter into the Easter season and we shall once again renew our baptismal promises, beginning from the Easter vigil. Let us pay attention to the words we respond to when we say, “I do.” They are strong and meaningful words; they are not mere responses to some frequently asked questions that have no bearing on reality. They are incredibly significant to our Christian lives. Let us live by them as the actions of a Christian with a promise.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney and a regular contributor to The Texas Catholic.