In our 2nd reading today, St. Paul shows his frustration that many of the early Christians did not seem to realize that Baptism is a life-changing event. Because, many of them still spent their time and energy pursing their own interests as they did before they were baptized. He wants them to understand that in Baptism they took on a new identity. They died to their old habits and were transformed into a new life – a life of Christ.
Today’s reading, Romans 6:1-11, is St. Paul’s main teaching on Baptism. He wrote: When you were baptized, you went into the tomb with Jesus and joined him in death so just as Christ was raised from the dead, you, too, might live a new life. Those words were easily understood by the Roman Christians he was writing to, but can be a little mystifying for us today. The reason is that we administer the Sacrament of Baptism differently than they did. Today, the priest or deacon dribbles a little water on the head of a child and the baptism is basically done. But for the early Christians, Baptism was a total bodily immersion in a special baptistery, set into the floor of the church. After an act of faith, an adult being baptized would step down into the water and symbolically “die” by going right under the water, then symbolically rise up to a new life. But, no matter how the Sacrament of Baptism is conducted, through it we become identified with Christ.
In our Gospel today, Jesus identifies Himself completely with His friends and disciples when He says, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.” That identification which Christ speaks of is shared with every one of us through our Baptism. Through our Baptism, we receive special graces to grow in union with Jesus to be less attracted to sin. We begin to understand that the consequence of sin is a loss of profound peace and joy that comes from a relationship with God, and miss the experience of Christ’s own energy flowing within us when we devote everything we do to promoting the Kingdom of God to His people.
This week, may we pray to be open to our Baptismal graces, and use those graces to stop being so self-consumed with our own concerns that we don’t recognize the needs of people around us. May we pray for the wisdom to know how to approach people who need strength and encouragement so they, too, can experience Jesus in their life and enter the Kingdom of God.