Newness of Life in Christ
Published: July 02, 2017
My dear Parishioners and Friends,
This Sunday’s Second Reading is one of my favorite Biblical passages. In Romans 6, St. Paul asks: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” And then he goes on to state why this is important: “We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead … we too might live in newness of life” (vv. 3-4).
Perhaps we don’t usually think of baptism as dangerous, but etymologically the word “baptism” means “to plunge, to sink, to submerge,” and even “to drown.” In Biblical times (and for the first four or five centuries of the Church’s history), full-body immersion was the usual way baptism was received. This means that new Christians were completely “buried” in water. This well-symbolized a complete ending – the death and burial – of the old, sinful way of life, followed by a joyous deep breath of fresh air – resurrection! – to a new “born again” life with Christ.
This new way of living is notably different from the old one. The power of sin is broken through baptism! Having been forgiven our sins and now possessing Jesus’ own Holy Spirit within us, we who are baptized actually have incredible power to choose holiness instead of sin.
As someone who hears an awful lot of confessions, I’ve become convinced over the years that too many people think they are powerless in the face of evil. You can hear the sad, frustrated resignation in their voices. They have become convinced that they will never be able to overcome their bad habits and other daily temptations of life; in the worst cases they almost despair of ever being happy – that is, spiritually relaxed and joyful – in this world. It’s sad.
Perhaps this Scripture will be a timely reminder for many of them: they are free, ransomed Christians now, not trapped and doomed. They can be better tomorrow than they were yesterday; they can be holier even if still not perfect! The good they now do offsets and even now triumphs over human limitations. Repentance and thus forgiveness are always possible now, even for those who think they have little hope.
You know, baptism by full immersion remains the favored option in the Church today, although it’s often not really possible due to limitations of space and plumbing, especially in older worship spaces (like ours!). I sort of wish we could do it more, so as to emphasize its importance as a spiritual life-changing experience!
Sincerely in the Lord,