I recently baptized a two month old. He slept through the whole ceremony, barely stirring as I poured water over his head three times (admittedly, it was warm water). On a natural level, this may be rather unremarkable. Babies sleep, at least when they want to. I’ve witnessed one sleep through a whole Memorial Day parade, replete with marching bands and fire trucks. Yet on a spiritual level, this napping neophyte revealed something marvelous about the Father’s love.
This infant began his midday nap in the state of original sin, estranged to God because of Adam’s sin. When he awoke, he was in the state of grace, an adopted son of the Father because of Jesus’ Cross and the Holy Spirit’s outpouring. How freely the Father loves, without us needing to earn any part of it! As Psalm 127 declares, the Lord “pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber.”
While this all sounds nice, something inside of us readily contradicts it. We may like the idea of sleep, but we usually find excuses to stay up late. We may like the idea of gifts, but we often want to earn the good things of life.
These contrary movements needn’t be evil, but they can mislead us in how we relate to God. Fundamentally, we are like that two month old being baptized. We are children in the Father’s arms, children whom he loves freely, without our earning it. We are often unaware of the great graces that he pours into our souls, graces that will blossom in their own timing.
Moreover, having made us his children, God can sanctify those contrary movements, our desire to stay up and earn our gifts. While resting spiritually in his arms, God sometimes asks us to stay up physically, keeping vigil with him in the night, especially in praying or in caring for the sick. While receiving his freely given love, God invites us to work with all our might as his little cooperators, not to earn his love but to share it with others.
May we stay awake to God’s love that we may always rest in his arms.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema