New Life through the Power of the Incarnation
Hands up if you’re a fan of ‘The Chosen’ series?!! If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, make watching it one of your resolutions for 2021! One of the episodes has imprinted a story told in the Gospel of John indelibly on my mind: the encounter between Nicodemus, a leading Pharisee, and Jesus. Nicodemus, enthralled by Jesus after witnessing and hearing of His great works, comes to speak with Him in secret. Yet, Jesus – being fully God as well as fully man – is full of mystery. Nicodemus is portrayed in this episode as as a man burning with questions he wants Jesus to answer but is perplexed by the enigmatic replies He receives: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3 John 3;5).
It can certainly be easy to smile rather smugly at Nicodemus’ confusion here – ‘I would have understood if I were him!’ we might even say to ourselves – yet the true sacrament of Baptism – though Scripture had certainly been preparing hearts to receive the truth of it for centuries – had not yet materialised at this point. Moreover, only in the wake of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection could it even begin to make sense. Before Jesus returned to Heaven, for instance, He gives His Apostles an epic mission: “Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Key to discipleship is baptism: to become a disciple, in other words, means to be born anew.
The incredible reality of Baptism is that it floods our soul with supernatural life, not only cleansing us from sin, but also giving us brand new life in the Holy Spirit. Stunningly, our Baptism made us co-heirs with Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Cor 5:17). Christ claimed us as His own, sealed us with an ‘indelible spiritual mark’, filled us with His Spirit, and infused the theological virtues of faith, hope and love into our souls so that we could truly love and serve God (CCC 1273; 1266).
Moreover, consider the incredible lengths Jesus had to go to to win this new life for us. First, He had take on our human nature so He could elevate it. He had to suffer and die to remove the wound Adam and Eve’s sin had inflicted upon it. He had to rise from the dead to show that death – one of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin – no longer had true hold over us. He had to intentionally – and at great personal cost -restore our friendship with God so that one day we could share in His life eternally. We were ‘bought’ at great price for a magnificent purpose. Our Baptism – in the words of St. Irenaeus – is ‘the seal of eternal life’ (CCC 1274).
Yet, great gifts can remain wrapped and hidden without care – so our Baptism also makes us accountable. To live fullness of life in Christ, we need to make Him centre of our lives. To do so is to participate – in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s words – in the ‘unlimited breadth and fullness of Christ.’ To do so – and to persevere – is to bring this amazing new life to fruition: ‘The saint is strong in his weakness’, Hildebrand writes, ‘because he has fully developed the supernatural life received in Baptism.’
Letting this new, supernatural life go to waste is a tragedy of epic proportions: its fruits are not only for us but are meant to radiate out to the world.
So, I challenge you here and now. Make a pledge today: Seek to live this new and incredible life with everything you’ve got (and watch ‘The Chosen’ series! 😉)
Thank You for the incredible gifts You gave me through my Baptism.
May they be brought to full fruition in me!
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.