The Promise of Baptism
Jan 14, 2019
In the earliest years of Christianity the moment one was baptized they became “children of God”. They would then be justified by Jesus’ work and live in the expectation of eternal life (Titus). It did not take long before this idyllic vision was marred. The Romans became uncomfortable with Christianity largely because it taught that there was no class system and no divisions among human beings. We all gained our dignity through Jesus Christ and he was available to anyone. The Roman society was highly divisive. There were slaves and freemen. There were divisions between those born to Roman citizens and those born in other places. Roman law emphasized these differences. The vision of Christianity was a great threat to Roman society so it began a persecution against Christians. They were organized locally and those who professed Christianity were publicly confronted and encouraged to deny their belief in Jesus Christ. The consequences of not denying Christ were dire. We have often heard of the heroes of this time period, we call them the martyrs. We teach that the Church was built on their blood.
However, there were many who caved in and did deny Christ publicly. These “children of God” scandalized the remaining members of the Church and they refused to worship with them. The ideals of early Christianity were shattered by this moment and there grew a new idea that perhaps one did not remain in a purified state of Grace after baptism. It is out of this that the sacrament of Reconciliation was born. It allowed the public sinners (those who had denied Christ publicly) to confess in front of the true believers and do a penance to regain their place in the community. We continue to be influenced by this idea in the present day. It causes many to think that somehow the promise given to them at baptism will be taken away. The best way to protect oneself is to go to confession with some frequency in the hopes that we can once again win God’s favor.
This is a false assumption. God’s favor always rests on us. As the first reading tells us: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. “. God has done the work and there is nothing we do that stops God from loving us. As we teach in the Creed, so it holds true in the present age: “there is one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and this is never taken away.