First reading 2 Kings 4:8-11,13-16
This is a holy man of God; let him rest here
Responsorial Psalm 88(89):2-3,16-19
Second reading Romans 6:3-4,8-11
When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Christ, so that we too might live a new life
Gospel Matthew 10:37-42
Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it
In today’s Second Reading, Saint Paul speaks about baptism. A good way to understand what is happening at baptism is to look at a baptistery constructed according to the preferred manner, allowing for full adult immersion. Firstly, there is the deep trench, dug into the ground, just like a grave – which is what it represents. When we are baptised something has to die. As Saint Paul says in today’s Second Reading: ‘When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Jesus and joined him in death’(Romans 6:3).
At baptism, we renounce behaviour that is self-centred, dysfunctional and destructive. We say goodbye to a lifestyle that never really gave us life. It is just that we didn’t know any better. But now we have found life through our union with Jesus and with those who are committed to living as his disciples.
Let us pause to reflect on the ways of behaviour that we are renouncing, helped by tradition which speaks of seven founts from which all sins are said to spring. As Christians we commit ourselves to give up a life that is characterised by the following:
- pride – thinking, judging and acting in a self-reliant, self-focused way, disdainful of others and inattentive to God and to God’s will.
- covetousness – never satisfied with who we are or what we have but grasping for possessions, prestige, reputation, and whatever gratifies our self-centred desires.
- lust – using our sexual energy either for our own self-gratification or to exercise power over others without regard to their true happiness.
- anger – not the anger which is an appropriate protection of self against unjust aggression, but the anger that resents anyone who crosses our ideas, our preferences, our comfort zones, even when they are right and we are wrong.
- gluttony – living so superficial a life that bodily gratification is more important to us than the aspirations of our spirit, or the needs of others.
- envy – when we see someone doing well, instead of experiencing joy we feel ourselves devalued and in overt or subtle ways we find ourselves putting others down, feeling miserable that we do not have their beauty or their possessions or their success.
- sloth – unwilling to commit ourselves and our energy to the noble tasks of life, preferring to hang around waiting for life to deal out fortune to us.
In baptism we die to these false values, even if they are the values of our mother or father or the social group with which we have been identifying. In Jesus we have found a meaning that awakens the energy of our soul. To follow him we have to embrace him on the cross, but we choose to do that and we go down into the tomb with him to renounce behaviour that does not lead to life.
We choose to do this in the hope that, as Saint Paul says in today’s Second Reading: ‘as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life’(Romans 6:4). This new life is life as a member of Christ’s body, the Church. We are still the same person, but now a refreshing stream has been poured into the desert of our dry and weary soul.
In terms of today’s Gospel we love Jesus and the God he reveals more than the natural ties that tend to bind us and give us our security: ‘anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me’(Matthew 10:37).
This is the second obvious feature of a baptistery. The large pit, besides representing a grave, represents a bath. The water of life, pouring from the heart of Jesus on the cross, is poured onto and over the person being baptised. We are immersed in a river of love that cleanses, refreshes, purifies and then carries us forward into a new life with Christ. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promised:
‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh’(Ezekiel 36:25-26).