Soaked in Salvation
Published on June 23-24, 2012 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Nobody is supposed to stay dry on the feast of the Baptist.
In the Philippines, on the 24th of June, in villages and towns that honor Saint John as their patron, garden hoses and faucets run full blast as adults rush to fill their pails and children their dippers and water pistols. On this feast, water is sprayed and splashed around with wild abandon. No one escapes being drenched; no one is spared from getting doused. Most people do not mind that they end up soaking wet: they at least get the chance to cool down on a hot and humid day.
This popular tradition traces its roots to the asperges, the rite of blessing and sprinkling of water at the beginning of Mass. The water “call[s] to mind our baptism into Christ who by His death and resurrection has redeemed us” (Pastoral Care of the Sick, 116). On the birthday of the one who baptized Christ in the Jordan, the ancient rite celebrated in the Church is extended to the streets. But, this time, it is not the priest who leads the memorial of baptism; those who have been baptized take it upon themselves to remind each other of the saving waters that have brought them eternal life.
At one point or another, a Christian needs that slap of water on the face to awaken his often sleepy soul. He needs it to recall the commitment that he had made when he was soaked in salvation: that he is to be stoked for evangelization. For the Lord commands everyone who is reborn of water and the Holy Spirit to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20). No one is ever baptized to be a pew potato; to be baptized is to preach the Gospel and to bring others to the font for baptism.
Perhaps, that is the other reminder offered by this festival of water. As they splash their bucketsful at both friend and stranger, the faithful unknowingly manifest the Lord’s mandate to extend to everyone they meet the invitation to baptism. For once, no one is afraid to go out there and to share the bountiful waters.
Some Christians probably do not need a bucketful “in your face” reminder of their own baptism. It may be enough for them to be sprinkled by the priest with holy water to remember what they were baptized to do. But, it cannot be denied that there are many others who probably need to get drenched, or else, they will forget.