Taste and See: The glory of Baptism

IMG_1623 Baptism of King Ethlebert by St. Augustine

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:3-4,8-11

The Second reading at Mass on Sunday reacquainted us with the wonder that is the sacrament of Baptism.

St Paul has a profound recognition of what life in Christ/Discipleship is about. We are baptised into Christ, into his death, and so we share in his life.

This is not a simple matter of association, that we become members of the club: it is a matter of identity with him. He lives in us and we live in him. This is his gift – the gift that God seeks to offer to all of humankind.

But it is not achieved in us, fulfilled in us, simply through the pouring of water, and anointing with oil, and saying ‘I baptise you’…

It takes, bears fruit, when we live our ‘yes’ to that gift.

At the time of Paul, the expectation was that this gift was beginning to be lived by a disciple before he or she came to baptism, so that it could be recognised that at least a real and mature desire for the promised gift and change and growth was already there. The was concern to ensure that before the rite, those to be baptised knew Jesus and believed in Jesus and were ready to commit to him, and so ready to enter into baptism and the quality of life that flows from it.

For us, today, mostly it is a bit more complicated. Mostly we were baptised as children, and generally before we knew anything about Jesus and what life in him might be. So the gift is given to us on trust, and it is something we have to grow into, learning in Christ to turn from sin and turn to life, to live compassionate and caring, looking beyond what suits us and what is needed for others; living life now as though now we were in heaven. God’s will be done in us on earth and though we were in heaven.

This is not though something we achieve through our own efforts, but by cooperating with the grace of God. This grace is shared with us in so many ways but mostly in ways we cannot see, or test or measure… it is shared with us really, truly but relies on our trust that what God invites us to he will help us to.

One way of putting this is be that we are encouraged to ambitious for holiness: holiness as demonstrated in love. As St Paul says there things last: faith hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

Detail of fresco by Sergei Fyodorov in Rochester Cathedral (Baptism of King Ethlebert by St. Augustine). (c) 2012, Allen Morris

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