YOU CAN’T TOUCH THIS
A young boy had been at home all day with his mother, living as a terror all day long. With each incident the mother responded, “You just wait until your dad gets home.” When the dad got home from work, the mother began telling him about their son’s behavior. He looked at his son, but before he could say anything the boy cried out, “You can’t touch me. I’ve been baptized!”
I wish it were that easy. I wish I could say to sorrows and losses, struggles and difficulties, changes and chances of my life, “You can’t touch me. I’ve been baptized!” But that is not how baptism works. Despite his baptism that little boy in the story still went into time-out. Yet he speaks a deep truth. He is untouchable. He knows the gift of baptism.
Despite my baptism I have encountered things I would rather have avoided. Baptism does not change the circumstances of our lives. Instead it changes us and offers a way through those difficulties, sorrows, problems, and circumstances and ultimately, a way through death. Baptism offers us a vision of life as it might be and offers us a new way of being: in relationship with God.
That means when we pass through the waters that can drown us they will not overwhelm us, and when we walk through the fire of loss and ruination we are not burned or consumed; for he is the Lord our God, the Holy one of Israel, our Savior. (Isaiah 43:1-7)
The gift of baptism always takes place at the border between life as it is and life as it might be. That border is the river Jordan. It is the border between the wilderness and the Promised Land; between sin and forgiveness; between death and life. The only reason we can stand at the border of baptism is because Jesus stood there first. His baptism makes ours possible, as we stand at the very same border on which His baptism took place. Ritually we are baptized only once, yet daily we return to the baptismal waters through living our baptismal vows. The water of baptism does not sanctify Jesus; instead He sanctifies the water for our baptism. The water that once drowned is now sanctified water that gives life.
Sometimes our own body provides the waters of baptism, tears. St. Ephrem the Syrian spoke of our eyes as two baptismal fonts, whose tears cleanse, heal, and renew life. Other times the circumstances and mistakes of life push us back to the waters of baptism. We return in order to again be immersed and to let the name “beloved” again wash over us.
There is truth in what that little boy said, “You can’t touch me. I’ve been baptized!” Now go live it.