BAPTISM AND CHRISTIAN LIFE
In the Apostolic Letter in preparation for the Jubilee, the Holy Father says that «commitment ...to make the mystery of salvation sacramentally present, can lead, in the course of the year, to a renewed appreciation of Baptism as the basis of Christian living according to the words of the Apostle: "As many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3,27)» (TMA 41). We will never fully discover the value of Baptism and its importance for our individual lives. The entire existence of the lay faithful «has as its purpose to lead a person to a knowledge of the radical newness of the Christian life that comes from Baptism, the sacrament of faith, so that this knowledge can help that person to live the responsibilities which arise from that vocation received from God» (John Paul II Ap Exhortation Christifideles laici, n. 10). This present year, dedicated to knowing better the person and the mystery of Jesus Christ the Son of God, is also an opportune time, in view of the coming Jubilee, to rediscover Baptism, and become more aware of our dignity as Christians according to the admonition of Pope Saint Leo the Great: «Christian, be aware of your nobility - it is God's own nature that you share: do not then, by an ignoble life, fall back into your former baseness. Think of the Head, think of the Body of which you are a member. Recall that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and have been transferred to the light of the kingdom of God. Through the sacrament of baptism you have been made a temple of the Holy Spirit ... For you were bought at the price of Christ's blood». (Sermon I Nativ, I-3). «With Baptism we become children of God in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Rising from the waters of the Baptismal font, every Christian hears again the voice that was once heard on the banks of the Jordan River: "You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3,22). From this comes the understanding that one has been brought into association with the beloved Son, becoming a child of adoption (cf Gal 4, 4-7) and a brother or sister of Christ. In this way the eternal plan of the Father for each person is realised in history: "For those who he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren" (Rm 8,29)» (Christifideles laici, n. 11).
The Masses of the Octave of Easter and the prefaces of the Easter Season, constantly remind us of the greatness of the sacrament of Baptism and the commitments it entails: «Help us to put into action in our lives the baptism we have received with faith» (Easter Monday); «If men desire wisdom, she will give them the water of knowledge to drink. They will never waver from the truth, they will stand firm for ever» (Easter Tuesday); «Father you gather the nations to praise your name. May all who are reborn in baptism be one in faith and love» (Easter Thursday); «Give undying life to all who have been born again in baptism»(Easter Saturday); «Christ became our paschal sacrifice. He has made us children of the light» (2nd Preface of Easter); «In him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed, and man is once again made whole» (4th Preface of Easter); «Let us pray for a deeper awareness of our Christian baptism. God of mercy, you wash away our sins in water, you give us new birth in the Spirit and redeem us in the blood of Christ» (Second Sunday of Easter).
«Regenerated as "Children in the Son", the baptised are inseparably joined together as "members of Christ and members of the Church" (...) Through the sacrament Jesus unites the baptised to his death so as to unite the recipient to his resurrection (cf Rm 6,3-5). The "old man" is stripped away for reclothing with the "new man", that is with Jesus himself (...) The result is that "we though many, we are one body in Christ" (Rom 12,5)» (Christifideles laici, n. 12).
Saint Paul's affirmation: «For as many of you as were baptised into Christ, have put on Christ» (Gal 3,27), has become a baptismal hymn in the West (Ordo Baptismi parvulorum, n 67), as it is traditionally in the East and is found as Communion antiphon on Saturday of the Easter Octave.
In our day, the different confessions of Christians have become once again aware that, despite their divisions, Baptism is a point of unity for all who believe in Christ. «Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic church» (CCC, n 1271). Since Baptism makes us members of Christ's Body and Christ cannot be divided (cf 1 Cor 1,13), it is also the basis of our hope for that visible unity of Christians, wished for by Christ himself: «That they may be one» (Jn 17,21). This is underlined by the Holy Father: «From an ecumenical point of view, this will certainly be a very important year for Christians to look together to Christ the one Lord, deepening our commitments to become one in Him in accordance with his prayer to the Father» (TMA 41).
The anointing of the heads of the newly baptised with chrism is accompanied with a declaration which shows that Baptism in the foundation of Christian life: «God (...) has freed you from sin and willed that you be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, uniting you with his people, he himself consecrates you with the chrism of salvation so that as part of Christ, priest, king and prophet you may be members of his body for life everlasting». With Baptism the whole of our existence is called to become living witness.
Incorporated into Christ, the baptised are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities. «For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patently borne - all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ» (Lumen Gentium 34).
United to Christ, the "Great prophet" (Lk 7,16), and in the Spirit made witnesses of the Risen Christ, Christians «are also called to allow the newness and the power of the Gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age, their hope of future glory» (Christifideles laici, 14).
Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, they share in his kingly mission and are called by him to spread that kingdom in history. They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin (cf ibid), a never ending battle which puts into action the renunciation of Satan made immediately before Baptism. They are also called to restore to creation all its original value, to order it, with all human activity, subjecting it to the Risen Christ who draws all things to himself.
«Christian, be aware of your nobility!» Every year, on Easter night, Christians are invited to remember their Baptism. It is like a great collective anniversary of the Sacrament once received, as a child or as an adult. It is an opportunity to recall a personal event which leaves an everlasting mark on our life. It is an opportunity to relive more intensely the commitment taken that day and revive the sap received from the true vine (cf Jn 15,5). The aspersion at the beginning of Sunday Mass is also a reminder of the Baptism received and the promise made by the Lord: «I will wash you with pure water and you will be purified» (Ez 36,25). And every time we make the sign of the cross with holy water, we are reminded as Christians of our baptism. «The call to holiness is rooted in Baptism and proposed anew in the other Sacraments, principally in the Eucharist. Since Christians are reclothed in Christ Jesus and refreshed by his Spirit, they are "holy". They therefore have the ability to manifest this holiness and the responsibility to bear witness to it in all that they do». (Christifideles laici, 16).
«Life according to the Spirit (...) stirs up every baptised person and requires each to follow and imitate Jesus Christ; in embracing the Beatitudes, in listening and meditating on the Word of God, in conscious and active participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, in personal prayer, in family or in community, in the hunger and thirst for justice, in the practice of the commandment of love in all circumstances of life and service to the brethren especially the least, the poor and the suffering» (ibid).
«Christian, be aware of your nobility!»