Today the Lord tells us to repent. As we heard in the Introit: Have mercy on me. In the Collect: look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy. In the psalm: It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave. In the second reading: These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain: some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer. All this happened to them as a warning, and it was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. And the Gradual: Repent, says the Lord.
Why repent? Two good reasons:
1. God is being in person: outside him is only the pain of empty nothingness.
2. If we don’t repent, we are no follower of Christ, but rather friends of sin.
In other words, repentance – renouncing forever unChristian things, and doing only the things of Christ – is part of the message of Jesus. Any announcement of the Gospel which does not include or presume the call to repentance is not the Gospel. But Father, you are being too harsh and unmerciful. That’s interesting, because those are the words Jesus uses today: unless you repent you will all perish. And again: unless you repent you will all perish. And again: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.
O my gosh Father, God is so terrible and nasty etc. No: actually it is you and I who is the Prince or Princess of Nasty who – quite logically – are destined for Eternal Nasty. And it is God who says, hang on a minute, I love you, let me intervene into your life and save you from that – today and forever. What is this way? It’s through a thing God invented called Baptism. Baptism is not something the Church made up – God announces his plan of Baptism in the text of Ezekiel of the Introit: I will pour clean water upon you and cleanse you from all your impurities, and I will give you a new spirit, says the Lord. And St Paul confirms it importance in the early Church:
I want to remind you, brothers, how our fathers were all guided by a cloud above them and how they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in this cloud and in this sea.
So, baptism is the ordinary way God saves us. So much so that Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude. (CCC#1257)
It’s so important that, unknown to many, the Church makes it very available:
- Who can be baptised? Any human being who is not already baptised.
- Who can baptise? While ordinarily the bishop, priest, or in the Latin rite, the deacon, In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, if they intend to do what the Church does, can baptise using the Trinitarian formula.
- What is fundamentally necessary for baptism to take place? To pour water at least on the forehead, three times, saying, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.