The truth about you, my dear Christian friend, is that by virtue of your baptism a remarkable thing occurred. The Lord of Life, the King of Heaven, the Almighty God has taken up residence where you might least expect. In you.
St. Paul identifies it over and over again in his letters, but he states it most distinctly when he writes that the mystery God has hidden for the ages has now been made manifest to his saints…“which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27.)
Indeed Christ came to earth for our redemption, but at the same time, Christ came to restore to us the hope of glory. That is, one day we will live with him, in the glory of the Trinity forever.
Remarkably, that reality started for you on earth the day you were baptized. You became “a new creation” in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).
Baptism is both your identity and your destiny. It tells you who you are, where you came from, and where you are going. It defines where “home” is and where you belong. It sets the course for the rest of your life – and eternity – if you embrace it.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. I make that claim standing on 2000 years of Christian Tradition found in the Catholic Church, and spelled out in no uncertain terms in the Scriptures and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).
A few words about that identity are found in CCC 1265 and 1266:
Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” [2 Cor 5:17; 2 Pet 1:4; cf. Gal 4:5-7], a member of Christ and co-heir with him,[Cf. 1 Cor 6:15; 12:27; Rom 8:17], and a temple of the Holy Spirit [Cf. 1 Cor 6:19].
The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
– enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
– giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
– allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
Try to take this in: our sonship and daughtership in God is our truest identity – it means that we participate in the divine life of the Trinity, thanks to grace.
Many of us were baptized as infants. Naturally, in that case, we probably have no recollection of our baptism. Therefore some of the power of this truth may elude our consciousness. Not only that, in growing up, many of us missed out on strong faith formation. So for the sake of those who may not have fully embraced their own baptism, let’s pause and talk about what our baptism looks like from this perspective of Christ being “in” us.
It all began with God’s love for us (See Jn 3:16). Maybe you’ve heard that before, and while its still very true, perhaps it just sounds like a nice platitude you may have heard as a child. If so, listen up: it’s time to understand the depth of our baptism, and all it implies, as an adult.
God’s attachment to us in baptism is intentional, deep, and permanent, indeed, like a lover who brands his or her beloved’s name on their arm as a tattoo. So, too, our God has branded us. God placed his loving yet indelible mark on our souls, like a soul tattoo.
(You could also say that the scars on the Risen Lord’s hands, feet, and side, are the permanent, inerasable marks of his love for us. But I digress.)
CCC 1272 and 1274 continue:
Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation…
The Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of the Lord (“Dominicus character”) “for the day of redemption.” [Eph 4:30; cf. 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:21-22]. Baptism indeed is the seal of eternal life. The faithful Christian who has “kept the seal” until the end, remaining faithful to the demands of his Baptism, will be able to depart this life “marked with the sign of faith,”[see Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer I] with his baptismal faith, in expectation of the blessed vision of God – the consummation of faith – and in the hope of resurrection.
If you read those biblical references in the text above, you’d find St. Paul explaining that this seal of the Holy Spirit is the sign of our salvation… “the seal of eternal life.”
Baptism is the sacrament of faith. It is not something to be received passively since it brings changes with it. Its grace conforms us to Christ. That means there is an added dimension – a supernatural one! – to the soul and body and personality and DNA that makes us unique persons.
We have the potential to take the shape of Christ, or to imitate him more perfectly than if we did not have such a grace. Why? Because Christ’s very life is in us. The glory of God has taken up residence in us. Not only that, we strengthen and grow that living supernatural “Christ-in-us” whenever we receive the Eucharist: the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. When we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, he recognizes and greets the Christ in us!
Are you getting the big picture? We. Were. Made. For. This.
We were made to be in this intimate, loving, and profound relationship with a God who sees Himself in us.
It’s somewhat like the joy a parent feels when they see a son or daughter who resembles them in eye color or has their freckles, or shares their love of music, or their taste for cheesecake. While the parent see themselves in their child, the child remains their own unique person. It’s a love thing.
So, we in turn, must live for this love. The Christ-in-us is an invitation to glory, both now, and in the future. This is our hope and our destiny. But we must choose to live the glory of our baptism, our true identity.
It is possible to waste our life by ignoring who we really are in Christ.
We must become, in full adult measure and stature, our truest selves. Our baptism invites us to become a saint, in the sense that a saint is someone who truly resembles Christ while maintaining his or her unique personhood and distinctive qualities.
The living out of our baptism, or some could call it “the task” of conversion, becomes not just a one-time “coming to” Christ, but a life-long on-going transformation of “becoming” Christ. Baptism gave us the grace of a head start. It sets us on the path of sanctity – which is another way of saying – this is a journey of a lifetime. That is why we have the Church, and the life of grace that we find there in the sacraments and in the Christian community.
[Baptism] conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.
So now we have come full circle. For via baptism, Jesus sees, and now I can see, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27.)
May we have the eyes to see in each of us: Christ.