Becoming a child of God
If you were asked, what was your first childhood memory, what would your answer be? What brought this to mind was a photograph posted on our family WhatsApp group, of our three-year-old niece attending her first Irish dancing class.
My sister was an Irish dancer, and I can still recall the sight of big dresses and even bigger wigs. An all too familiar recollection was the Saturday night vision of hair in rollers, covered in foil. This never made much sense to me, getting her hair put up, even though you would be wearing a wig.
Obviously, my niece inherits her love of Irish dancing from her father. My brother-in-law keeps informing me he has two good feet. These two good feet must be for Irish dancing because they’re not for football. As the eldest at home, I had gotten used to my own company for four years and I haven’t recovered from the intrusion into my personal space over the last forty years. Sharing a living space with family has its joys, but it certainly brings its challenges. I remember most of the firsts at home; when my brothers and sister first crawled, first tottering steps as they tried to walk, when they spoke their first word, experienced their first Christmas, survived their first day at school and the first time they touted on me and got me into trouble. Regarding my first childhood memory, I can recall Christmas, birthdays, my first bike with stabilisers and I still have the stabilisers. One of my first memories was being taken as an infant to stay in my grandparents in Creggan. I didn’t realise what was happening, little did I know there was an alternative motive. As I ate my way through the cupboards, I failed to notice I would be staying, I was being babysat. As far as I was concerned, I was being abandoned and as my mother disappeared, I cried and screamed the house down until I was offered a biscuit.
While happily eating, as far as I was concerned, my parents could take their time in coming back. Hopefully, we can all relate to priceless childhood memories. Few of us can remember the date of our baptism, a significant moment, which bypasses many of our recollections. The significance of this first sacrament is rarely celebrated beyond the day of the christening. If you were asked what date you were baptised on, could you answer the question?
I was baptised on the 15th September 1975 in Saint Patrick’s Pennyburn. The only reason I know, relates, to being put on the spot by a child. I was asking a confirmation class to find out the date of their baptism; when I was asked my christening date, I couldn’t answer. Baptism is fundamental to our identity as Christians, we enter not only the long line of generations known as God’s people; we also enter the new relationship God has created with his people, through Jesus Christ. Throughout the Christmas period, we have celebrated the event by which Jesus became one of us, through his Incarnation. The goal, the reason Jesus entered our human condition, was to draw all humanity into his relationship with the Father.
In baptism, we become a child of God, a precious daughter and son of the Father. This reality has an eternity of significance, if our hearts are open, then we are embraced into the eternal community of life and love, which is The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. We celebrate the precious uniqueness of our lives, realising our lives have meaning because we have been loved into existence and claimed by God. Yet as family members, as sisters and brothers, we share a common dignity and a common destiny. We are born through and into relationships, as such we can only live and flourish, through our relationships with others. The British philosopher Julian Baggini argues: ‘Realising that I have only one life, and recognising that others do too, will ensure the recognition that one’s pleasure and enjoyment might sometimes be at the cost of other people’.