The Wonder of Baptism
Priests get to baptise a lot of babies, but I was thinking that over the past couple of years I have baptised a number of adults, more than I have done in the past. This is a great privilege, as God, after a number of years of a person’s earthly life is bringing them to a completely new supernatural life through this most essential of all the Sacraments. The day of our Baptism is far more important than the day of our birth, because whereas our earthly life peters out and we die, Baptism gives us everlasting life.
St Paul, in today’s Second Reading (Colossians 2:12-14) tells us that before Baptism we were dead in sin. Sin to the soul is what sickness is to the body, and mortal sin is to the soul what death is to the body. The fact is that we were not born into this world pure and spotless. We inherited Original Sin (the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve) and were born without supernatural life in our souls, that is without the life and grace of God. So Original Sin is not something we have personally done, it is rather our state when we are born, because we are all descendants of Adam. God created our first parents supernaturally alive, but they lost this supernatural life through disobeying God. And that is the state into which we are all born. So, we either have God’s life in our soul or we don’t, and Baptism is what gives it to us. St Paul doesn’t see Baptism as merely an official and public incorporation into the Christian community. No. He sees it as a death and a resurrection – being born to new life in Christ – transitioning from the old creation into the new. Through Baptism we die to the old creation and rise in the new and all our sins are washed away. Should we have the misfortune of falling into mortal sin after Baptism, Christ in His mercy has instituted the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) for the forgiveness of sins after Baptism so that we may regain our state of grace.
St Paul goes on to say that Christ, “cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay [debt of sin] … by nailing it to the cross.” This is a powerful image. As you know from the Gospel accounts of the Passion, the Romans would often nail a placard to the crosses which would have the accusation or the crime for which the person was being executed written upon it. In the case of Our Lord it said, “JESUS of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. Our Lord was put to death for claiming to be a king in opposition to Caesar. So Paul takes this image of the placard, and he says those legal charges of the law against us, all the accumulated debt of our sins for which we have merited death, Christ has taken them all and nailed them to the cross, thereby cancelling our debt. This is what brought about the forgiveness of sin and ushered us into new life in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. It is from the Cross of Christ that Baptism and all the other Sacraments have their efficacy.
This is such a great gift from God, and it’s something we could never have given ourselves. So we should thank God for it and celebrate our day of Baptism every year. Do you know your date of Baptism? If not find out and have a party! Celebrating your date of Baptism would be a wonderful way of contributing to the re-Christianisation of our culture, and it would also help us to realise how much God has done for us.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC