SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So let’s just start in Romans 6:3, and we’ll read through it and then we’ll come back and unpack it and try to relate it to Baptism. Paul says this:
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.
Beautiful, powerful passage here...so much to say about it. Let’s just walk through it step by step. The first point is about Baptism. I love that St. Paul begins here by saying:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)
And I can imagine some of the readers saying, “Well, no, I actually didn’t realize that.” Or at least, I know for a fact that today many people might be unaware that Baptism was principally about being immersed—that’s what baptizō
means—being plunged into the death of Christ.
Why do I say that a lot of people might be surprised by that language? Well, in our own day and time, the Sacrament of Baptism gets described in all kinds of ways. So, I’ve been to many baptisms. Sometimes Baptism is described as a sacrament that removes original sin. That, of course, is the case. In that case, it’ll be like a sacrament of forgiveness, sacrament of cleansing.
In other cases, Baptism is described as the sacrament that incorporates us into the Body of Christ, and that, of course, is true as well. There the sacrament becomes one of communion, of joining us to Jesus and as members of His Mystical Body. Other times, I’ve heard the Sacrament of Baptism described as one in which the Holy Spirit comes down to dwell in the soul of the Baptized person. In that case, it’s a sacrament of indwelling, and that is true as well. That the gift of the Holy Spirit—the indwelling power of the Trinity, in fact—coming to dwell in the soul of the baptized is one of the graces, one of the beautiful mysteries of the sacrament.
Very rarely, however, have I been to a Baptism where the Baptism was described as crucifixion, as a co-crucifixion with Christ, where the emphasis was put on the fact that your baby (often the infant Baptism) or this person is being baptized into the death of Jesus. But that’s how Paul sees Baptism. He’s highlighting the mystery of Baptism as what we might call the sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection.
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 pause there. When Paul’s thinking of Baptism, he’s obviously thinking of the imagery of what the Greek word connotes, which is immersion into water. But here Paul says that in Baptism, we’re actually being buried with Christ. So it’s not just the mystery of the cross, it’s also the mystery of His tomb. That in a sense, just as Christ’s body was buried in the tomb, so too we are buried in the waters of Baptism. We are immersed into the death of Jesus:
...so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
So Paul thinks of Baptism, first and foremost, as a sacrament of crucifixion and resurrection, where we are (in a sense) being co-crucified with Christ and then co-resurrected with Christ. That’s redundant to say co/with, but you get my point. I think one of the reasons this is often lost in contemporary Catholic catechesis on Baptism is in part just because of the way the rite works. Because in most contemporary contexts, we don’t actually bury a person into the water. We don’t practice immersion. It’s not the customary form of Baptism in the Roman rite, in the Latin rite. Normally, we’ll either have sprinkling in the form of infant Baptism or with pouring like with an adult Baptism, where the water will be poured over their head.
But when Paul is describing Baptism, he’s thinking here, for example, about the Baptism of St. John the Baptist, where people would immerse themselves in the water of the Jordan and then come up out of the water—so that the symbolism of death and resurrection is much more apparent.
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