In this beautiful Easter season, I have found myself reflecting on the meaning of our baptism.
More and more, I see that we need to deepen our sense of the dignity and responsibility that we have as Christians, the mission that we are given in baptism, the new life that we have in Jesus Christ.
We are born once through the love of our mother and father. We are born a second time, of water and the Spirit, through the love of God.
Our baptism is the most important day of our lives. But most of us cannot remember that day because our “second birth” took place when we were tiny infants, baptism being a beautiful gift that we received from our parents.
But we need to remember this in our parishes and homes — baptism is so much more than a joyful ceremony or a family gathering.
Baptism has a cosmic significance and it is a moment of personal destiny for each of us, a day when our life story is joined to the history of salvation, the great story of God’s love for his people.
Pope Francis tells us that we should celebrate our baptism day as we celebrate our birthday — because this is the day we are born to be our true selves, the people that God made us to be.
The first Christians called baptism “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” It is truly the gateway to a new life. Through baptism we are freed from sin and made a “new creation,” sons and daughters of the living God, brothers and sisters gathered into his family, the Church.
The new life that we are given in baptism is “cruciform” — it takes the shape of the cross. As Jesus offered himself on the cross for the life of the world, he calls each of us to do the same — to consecrate and offer our lives to God.
Baptism makes us a part of the common priesthood of all believers, giving us a share in Christ’s own priesthood.
Of course, we understand that the ordained priesthood, founded at the Last Supper, is at the heart of Christ’s plan for his Church and the mission of salvation he entrusts to the Church. He ordains some men to be set apart, to stand in his very person (“in persona Christi”) at his altar to sanctify and serve God’s family.
But all of us are meant to share in the priestly work of redeeming the world. This is the original Christian vision for our lives and returning to this vision is a key to the renewal of the Church in our times.
An early bishop and doctor of the Church, Saint Peter Chrysologus, explained the common priesthood this way: “Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith … self-surrender … the offering of your free will.”
We do not offer our lives on the cross, as Jesus did. He is calling us to offer “spiritual sacrifices,” making our life something beautiful that we offer to him in everything we do. We participate in Christ’s priesthood by the way we live — by how we treat others and by the priorities we set, by what we love and what we think about, and by what we devote our time and energy to.
We are called to a service of love — at home, at work, at school, in every walk of life. We need to realize that in everything we do, in some way we are sharing in Christ’s own priesthood, that we are joined with him in this mission of working for the world’s salvation, for the coming of his kingdom and for his will to be done on earth as in heaven.
As Jesus did, we need to have a true “fire” in our hearts for the salvation of others, beginning with those who are closest to us. We need to love Jesus with a love that longs to bring every person to love him, too.
We need to pray for people, and work to make this world better for the poor and vulnerable; we need to try to free people from sin and injustice, to remove every obstacle that keeps them from meeting Jesus and opening their hearts to his mercy and love.
This is the “spiritual offering” that we are called to make to God with our lives.
Pray for me this week and I will pray for you.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary help us to grow more and more in our awareness that we are children of God who have a priestly soul, which is the beautiful identity and mission that is given to every one of us who has been baptized.