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Repent and be Baptized

by Brant Pitre May 22, 2020 0 Comments


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Now with that in mind, let's go back and we will look at the Acts of the Apostles.  So the other reading for this day is the reading from Acts 2.  Once again, it's the homily of Peter on the feast of Pentecost.  So on the third Sunday we looked at the first part of Peter's homily.  Now on the fourth Sunday we are going to look at the second part of Peter's homily for Pentecost and the results of that homily.  So it says this:

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.  Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

Now pause here for just a second.  If you were asking that question in a contemporary American context, like an American Christian context, and you had a crowd of people and you were preaching the gospel to them and you said “what must we do next?”,  a lot of Christians in the United States — a lot of Protestant Christians — would say the next step would be “you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior into your heart and you get saved.”  But notice what Peter does.  He do something different.  He does call them to repentance, but he calls them not just to repent but to the sacraments.  Listen to what Peter says:

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.”  And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."  So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Wow!  So what is important about this passage?  Well at least three things.  Number one.  When the people hear Peter’s homily and are cut to the heart, his response to them is repent and be baptized.  In other words, he points them, as I just said, to the sacraments.  Number two.  Notice here that Peter considers Baptism not just to be a symbol, but to be what we would call a sacrament.  It has the power to forgive sins.  That's why  he says here, “be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”  That is what Baptism does.  It washes away our sin.  Third.  Notice something else.  Peter says that baptism is for them and for their children.  This is very, very important here.  Notice he doesn't say “this is for you and for your children if they have reached the age of reason and can choose it for themselves,” which is again what many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters believe about Baptism.  You should only administer Baptism to children who are old enough to choose it for themselves.  Peter makes no such statement.  Peters says that Baptism is for every body.  It is for you and for your children, and it is even for the Gentiles, it is for those who are far off.  Because God's covenant love in the New Testament is not more exclusive than in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament you could be brought into the covenant as an infant through the right of circumcision. 

Martin Luther even said this.  In the New Covenant, would it make sense for God to exclude infants from the grace of salvation simply because they can’t choose it for themselves?  By no means, because then that would make the old covenant more inclusive than the new covenant.  So Peter’s whole point is that Baptism is for everyone.  It is for you and it is for your children.  We will actually see this later on in the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts 16 and Acts 13 both describe whole households receiving the sacrament of Baptism.  Once the father comes to believe in Christ, the whole household is baptized.  That means his wife, his children and even any servants or others who might be living with them in that home in the whole domestic household.  Everyone receives the sacrament of Baptism.  Everyone receives the grace of forgiveness.  So I bring this up because it's one of those things that Catholics often get asked about.  “Why do you practice infant baptism?  Why do you baptize children?”  Well because that's how the apostolic Church did it.  That's what the Acts of the Apostles describes to us, that Christ who is the good shepherd is calling all of us to be his sheep, calling us to eternal life.  And so that sacrament of Baptism, the gift of Baptism, is something that is for us and for our children. 

Then fourth and finally, notice the effects of Peter's homily.  After receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and then standing up to preach, giving them the good news, going through the basics of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension, and then calling them to repent of their sins and be baptized, 3000 people receive baptism that they day.  3000 people convert.  And as I mentioned before, I teach at a seminary and so I like to tell the men who are preparing for ordination, “this is Peter's first homily.  And in his first homily he had 3000 conversions.”  So that is one really, really good first homily.  So I like to tell the seminarians, don’t get disappointed if you don’t get 3000 conversions on your first homily, because this is an extraordinary moment.  This is the first homily of the first apostle, the chief of the apostles, on the day of Pentecost.  But it shows you here that it's not Peter's natural powers.  It wasn’t because he was such a great speaker that 3000 people converted.  It was because he was filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  This is a supernatural grace that's given to him through Pentecost and in his preaching.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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