‘You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbour. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?’
I have to admit that this quotation from the rite of baptism is one of the most disturbing for me in performing my ministry. I have to put this ritual question to the parents of a child being baptised, and they have to respond with the words: ‘We do’. Too often it’s sadly only a ritual response; only words, empty declaration without any real readiness to fulfil it. I’m always in a dilemma because in some ways I become an accomplice in perjury. After the baptism the family disappear from our radar till the next baptism or an extraordinary celebration like first communion or wedding.
Recently the number of couples living together without a formal bond has been constantly growing. Surely there are many factors affecting people’s decision for doing so, for instance the enormously high costs of wedding. In talks with many couples I’ve noticed a quite common and particular aversion to making any formal bonds or declarations. Some people believe it might kill the freshness of their relationship. Perhaps more truly is the uncertainty of their ability to keep and fulfil the promise. But let’s be honest; lack of a formal bond doesn’t mean that nothing keeps us together. Splitting and leaving is similarly painful like a divorce of a married couple, because the formal bond is only a confirmation of the existing relationship.
It seems that the development of mass media (generally hardly overrated) has had a side effect; a spoken word has become less valuable. Scandals, dishonesty, abuses of their position by powerful and influential people (sadly within the church too) have undermined the trust in people’s declarations. On the other hand we still long for honest people whose words are meaningful, who keep their promises and stick to their declarations.
When I was in my early twenties once I read this from the gospel: ‘All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one’ (Mt 5:37). I decided to follow strictly this advise; when I did something wrong I honestly admitted to it and took responsibility for my wrongdoing; but when someone accused me of doing something bad that I hadn’t done I just said ‘it wasn’t me’ without excusing myself. Oddly enough several weeks later people around me begun trusting my declarations without any additional confirmations. They learnt I was honest. Sadly that’s a story from the very distant past.
I realised that personal honesty helps us to be trustful people; but on the other hand it sharpens my perception of someone else’s dishonesty. Honesty makes me more assertive, but also more sympathetic towards people. Honesty lowers my expectations and needs to a realistic level, but also helps me to accept people as they are. Generally speaking, my personal honesty makes my life and the life of others easier.