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Baptism in Romans 6

by Brant Pitre May 07, 2020 0 Comments


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The second reading is from Romans 6:3-11 and it's all about Baptism.  So that is why I keep focusing on Baptism.  You might think, “why are you focusing so much on Baptism Dr. Pitre, when this about the resurrection?”  Well, because those are two ways of talking about the same mystery in many ways.  Listen to what St. Paul says about Baptism:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For he who has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.  For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So what is Paul describing here? Baptism is, in short, our participation in not just the death of Jesus Christ, but also his resurrection.  Baptism is not just our participation in his burial, into the waters of death, but also our participation in his resurrection from the waters of death through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is one of the reasons, by the way, that baptism by immersion is such a powerful symbol of death and resurrection.  Because if you take a child and you immerse that child, for example, or an adult, in the waters of Baptism, when you go underwater and you come up from the water, what you do?  You take a deep breath.  It's like the intake of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of new life in Christ.  It is the beginning of a new creation.  And that's really the theme that the Church is calling us to focus on at the Easter vigil.  It is the theme of a new creation and resurrection from the dead.

And I'll end with this quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this matter, because I think this is something really important for us to stress.  As we are coming to the Easter vigil, and we are coming to the most important Sunday of the entire year, the Sunday of Easter, it is critical to remember why Sunday matters to us as Christians.  And Sunday matters for this reason, Sunday is not just the day of the resurrection of Jesus, but it is the day of the beginning of the new creation.  And when we die with Christ in Baptism and rise with him through Baptism, we no longer belong to the old creation, in which the worship was centered on Saturday, on Sabbath, we now belong to the new creation, in which worship is centered on Sunday.  This is very important for Catholics to understand.  Why do we worship on Sunday and not Saturday when the the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament say “keep the Sabbath day holy.” That means keep Saturday holy.  Why don't we follow that commandment?  Which other commandments do we break?  Sometimes Seventh-day Adventists will ask that of Catholics. They think we are breaking the Decalogue.  We are not breaking the Decalogue.  The Sabbath itself was a shadow and it was part of the old creation.  But when we die with Christ in Baptism, we become part of the new creation.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church actually says this in paragraph 2174.  Listen to these words, I’ll end with this:

Jesus rose from the dead "on the first day of the week."

That's quoting Matthew 28:1, the verse we began our discussion with.

Because it is the "first day," the day of Christ's Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the "eighth day" following the sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ's Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord's Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica) Sunday:

And then the Catechism quotes St. Justin Martyr, who says:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.

That's really what Easter is all about.  It's that God didn't come into the world just to save us from hell or to save us from our sins, he came into the world to make all things new, to usher in a new creation.  That is good news, the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Happy Easter everybody!


Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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