In a previous post I dealt with the issue of where in Scripture Catholics get the idea that babies can be baptized. In that post, I singled out two other questions that were implicit in the reader's question. This post deals with the second of the three questions:
2) What does baptism do for someone that would make one baptize babies?
"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 'Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213).
Baptism has three main effects, all of which would make any caring parent want to baptize their children: It washes away Original and personal sin; it opens one to the other Sacraments; and it brings us into the family of G-d.
Baptism washes away our Original Sin, as well as our personal sin. Many in the Protestant denominations will argue that baptism is only a symbol, and has no actual affect on the person's soul. St. Peter would argue against those Protestants, saying that "and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). How could it be any more clear?! Our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection "saves you"! The Original Sin that is washed away is usually of more importance than that of personal sin, because the Catholic Church baptizes babies (who do suffer from Original Sin, but not personal sin because they can not yet sin). However, when a catechumen (someone that is joining the Church and is not yet baptized) is baptized, all of his or her personal sins in the past are also washed away. If for no other reason, a parent would want to baptize their child to wash away that Original Sin! If you need other verses, just look at Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Or Acts 22:16 "and now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins."
Baptism is the gateway to the other Sacraments. I like using the word gateway, because of the connotations that exist in regards to some drugs being gateway drugs. I like the idea of us being 'addicted' to the Sacraments, being addicted to receiving Christ and Confessing our sins, etc. The graces that flow from baptism are enhanced in the graces from the other Sacraments. One cannot receive the other Sacraments without receiving baptism, enhancing baptism's importance. For this reason, one can see baptism as a cornerstone to the other Sacraments. For example, similar to how our sins are washed away through the waters of baptism, so our sins are washed away with the waters of our tears in Confession. The graces that flow from baptism, and the graces that flow from the now-available other Sacraments, provide spiritual food. Why would a parent wait for their children to make a 'personal choice' before giving them food? Why would a parent wait for their children to make a 'personal choice' before giving them the spiritual food of baptism?
Finally, baptism brings us into the family of G-d, just like circumcision in the Old Covenant. A parent does not wait until their child is at the 'age of reason' to decide if they want to be part of their earthly family, why would they wait to entrust their child into the family of G-d? Furthermore, through baptism, the child is being brought into the earthly Church family! We are brought into the very Body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:13 states that "for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." This body is the Body of Christ. Being brought into this Body of Christ brings us closer to each other, closer to Jesus, and closer to G-d. Under the Old Covenant, circumcision brought one into the family of G-d. Under the New Covenant, baptism brings us into the family of G-d.
In the next post on this subject, we'll look at why Catholics baptize babies. For what other reasons, besides the ones already discussed, do you think Catholics baptize infants?