Bath of Re-birth

baptism

He saved us through the bath of re-birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Whom He richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:5)

The bath of re-birth. Here in Martinsville and Rocky Mount, Virginia, some adults among us have expressed their desire to receive Holy Baptism, and the other sacraments of Christian initiation, at Easter. [Spanish]

Whenever anyone is washed in any way with water, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with the intention to baptize, then a Holy Baptism occurs. Someone becomes a Christian and begins the life of grace.

Holy Baptism involves re-birth, the beginning of a new and different kind of life. It’s still a human life, lived in this fallible flesh. But now it is human life “renewed by the Holy Spirit.”

In other words, the holiness of God dwells in a baptized Christian in distinct way. All human beings bear the image of God, in our spiritual nature—our capacity for knowledge, insight, and love. But the Holy Spirit purifies and elevates the human spiritual soul, making a Christian capable of living as another Christ.

That’s the renewal brought about by Holy Baptism. Now we partake not just of human life, but of the human life of Christ. The mysteries of His life become the mysteries of our lives, too.

Holy Spirit dove sun

Baptism seals a person’s soul with the name of Jesus. That seal gets strengthened and completed by another sacrament, in which we share in the “Christness” of Christ… Confirmation.

Baptism and Confirmation make us anointed ones, like the Messiah, the Christ. Both of these words mean: “the Anointed One;” Messiah means “the anointed one” in Hebrew; Christ means “the anointed one” in Greek. And as we know from Sunday’s gospel reading: the Father anointed Jesus with… the Holy Spirit.

In the reading from the letter to Titus, we hear St. Paul refer to the “blessed hope” that awaits all those who believe. We pray about this blessed hope at every Mass. “Father, keep us free from sin, and protect us from all distress, as we await the blessed hope.”

Christians, with souls lifted heavenward by the renewal of the Holy Spirit, “live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this world,” having “rejected godless ways and worldly desires.” Christ sacrificing Himself for us has delivered us from “all lawlessness” and has cleansed us to be His people, “a people eager to do what is good.”

Most of us have already been baptized. Baptism can only happen once in any individual life. But in our weakness, we can and do fall away from the grace of Christ, from the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

devilAt that point, should we just give up? We had our chance at the cleansing waters of baptism, but we fell back into lawlessness anyway. So: Too bad, guess I’m going to hell?

Hold on. Maybe a baptized sinner can find a way back? Holy Baptism only happens once in any individual human life, but has the Lord given us a kind of “second baptism?” And a third, fourth, fifth, fiftieth, hundredth, umpteenth baptism?

Correct. Confession to a priest. It’s never too late. The waters of baptism lay open perpetually to any humble heart that trusts God’s mercy and tells the truth in the confessional. The renewal of the Holy Spirit comes not just with Holy Baptism, but with confession and absolution, also.

Okay. So far, so good. But how many “sacraments of Christian initiation” are there? Two—just Baptism and Confirmation? No, actually: three. What’s the third?

Good answer. But isn’t it: The Cross? Or The Resurrection? Or The Heavenly Banquet? Isn’t it: Christian love, uniting together the family of mankind, that sin had left broken and separated? Or The Peace that Surpasses All Understanding?

Yes. Because the Holy Mass involves all these things–and more, of course. The mystery of intimate, interior communion with Jesus. With coffee and donuts to follow. A place to rest our souls, an invigorating Sabbath for our weary hearts. Laying all our cares and attachments down at the altar, so we can follow Jesus anywhere.

God, in His mercy, by His power, according to His infinitely wise design, has made us Christians. He has made us His anointed ones, united with The Anointed One. He had made us heirs to the blessed hope of eternal life.

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