By Vic Scaravilli

This past Easter we celebrated the resurrection of Christ. This great event fulfilled God’s New Covenant where he restored all of us back into his friendship and gave us the promise of eternal life. Salvation is now a free gift that is totally given to us by the grace of God. Unfortunately, just because God promises the gift of salvation, it does not automatically become ours just because we are born after Christ.

How, then, do we obtain this free gift? Throughout the New Testament, it tells us how we can overcome the sin that prevents us from being part of God’s family. Jesus breaks the bondage of sin – especially original sin, the root sin binding the whole human race and shares with us his own divine life.

Paul says in Romans 6:1-11, “How do we get out of the state of sin and back into God’s family? By no means, we died to sins, so how can we live it any longer or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. We are therefore baptized with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God, we too may have new life.”

Baptism is the initial sacrament that allows us to enter into a personal relationship with Christ. As all sacraments, Jesus is the one who initially established it by his actions and teachings.

Jesus also teaches of its importance in several ways. In John 3:5 he says, "I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born through water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." In Mark 16:15-16, Jesus after his resurrection said, "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned." And in Matthew 28.19, "Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. I will be with you always, to the end of time."

What does baptism do for us? It frees us from original sin and all other sins that may be within us, allows to become members in his family and be called his children, and gives us sanctifying grace by the Holy Spirit. This sacrament provides us membership into the Body of Christ or his church and unites us to the saving power of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is also the door that gives us access to the other sacraments.

The visible sign of baptism is water and is used in conjunction with pronouncing the invocation of the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that signify the internal grace that is given by Christ. The water signifies cleansing as well as rebirth.

Since this sacrament is the one that erases original sin and allows entry into God’s family, it is administered only once. Baptism initiates God’s free gift of the live-saving sanctifying grace, reconciliation restores it, and the other sacraments increase it.

The Catholic doctrine of baptism has been the same since the beginning of the church. The understanding of this sacrament has been universally known, preached, and documented by the apostles, their successors, and the Church Fathers.

This beautiful free gift that God gave us in this sacrament can be summed up in Titus 3:5-7: “It was not because he was concerned with any righteousness actions we might have done ourselves; it was for no reason except his own compassion that he saved us, by means of the cleansing water of rebirth and by renewing us with the Holy Spirit which he has so generously poured over us through Jesus Christ our savior. He did this so that we should be justified by his grace, to become heirs looking forward to eternal life.”

So, if you are ever asked if you have been “born again”, say with confidence that you were given a new life in Christ by the sacrament of baptism!