Posted April 4, 2021
Easter Sunday 2021
From the earliest days of Christianity, Easter has been associated with baptism. Or rather, baptism has been associated with Easter. For baptism gets its meaning from Easter. Baptism is the means by which we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. As St Paul puts it: ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him, by baptism, into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Jesus in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.’ In other words, baptism is the means by which God draws us into Jesus’ paschal mystery and locks our destiny into his.
One of the effects of baptism is the removal of sin, liberation from the power of sin. The New Testament speaks of ‘baptism for the remission of sins’, and traditionally baptism has been associated with the removal of original sin, the sin that somehow inheres in human nature, taints it, prevents its flowering and diminishes its freedom. Perhaps there is a hint of this in today’s Gospel reading. The linen cloths that had bound the body of Jesus are found to be lying there unwound and discarded. Jesus is free; indeed, he is freedom itself: in contrast to an earlier episode in St John’s Gospel, when Lazarus came out of the tomb still bound with the bandages of death, and Jesus had to command: ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ At Easter, and through baptism, Jesus says of each one of us, ‘Unbind him; unbind her, and let them go.’
But there is much more to Easter, and much more to baptism, than liberation from the power of sin. That is the negative side of it, to be sure. Easter, and baptism, are about the destruction of evil, for God cannot bear to see his creation marred by it. But Easter and baptism are also about the enhancement and perfection of all that is good and beautiful in creation, the upholding and transformation of all that is wonderful in nature and in our humanity, the fulfilment of human aspirations, of our hopes and joys as human beings. Easter is God’s jubilant yes to our humanity that God himself created, and to all the good things around us, and in us. Easter is about the infinite potential for goodness and life that our risen Lord brings to each one of us through baptism. Oh that the risen Lord this Easter day would transform every aspect of our being, remove all that is ugly from our lives, and enhance and make eternal all that is lovely.
Frequently I baptize tiny babies, in simple ceremonies. Perhaps I shall never set eyes on them again in this life, but I shall look upon them in eternity and see them there transformed in all the glory of our risen Saviour. As St Paul says in the second Reading: ‘Your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ That is what Easter and baptism are all about.
Today we are invited to commit ourselves anew to this wonderful vocation through the renewal of our baptismal vows: invited to say yes to God’s new creation. ‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, all things have become new.’ Here is your opportunity to allow God to refashion your past, to remove all that is bad and negative in your lives and to magnify beyond all telling whatever is good and beautiful. Say yes to it now and shape the rest of your lives on it.
Fr Tom Deidun