Turning 60 Twice

Jesus answered …’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”  John 3:3

Over the past few weeks I turned sixty years old two times.  I celebrated my first birthday in mid-October, and then on All Saints day, I celebrated by second birthday—the day I was baptized sixty years ago.

We often don’t think of baptism as a birthday, but that is the way Jesus describes it in the Gospel of Saint John.  There, he tells Nicodemus that one has to be “born of water and Spirit” in order to enter the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 3:5).  Baptism is a spiritual rebirth; or, to think of it another way, it is the supernatural birth that must follow our natural birth if we are to enter God’s kingdom.

Why is this important?  We can think of it this way.  One’s first birth marks an entrance into a natural, biological family including parents and siblings and other relatives.  Baptism marks the entrance into God’s family, the Church.  One is born into the Body of Christ and becomes a living member of Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which inspires the soul with the life of the Holy Trinity.  At this point, one is a Christian.  From that moment on, one may truly call God “Father.”  All the saints and others who have been born again by baptism become one’s siblings in this family.

The first birth is “of the flesh” while the second one (baptism) is “of the Spirit,” to use Jesus’ words (cf. Jn 3:6). Both birthdays are important of course, but we often don’t give as much thought to the second birthday as the first.  Thanks to the second, we can enter the kingdom of God, and that is what life is all about.  We corporately celebrate our second birthday as a Catholic family on Easter Sunday when we renew our baptismal promises together and receive blessed water through the sprinkling rite recalling when we were born again.  Through this annual rite, we “own it” once more by professing our faith and renouncing the prince of this world, who is in charge of the other kingdom, the one baptism delivered us from.

If you don’t know the date of your baptism, I recommend researching it so that you can celebrate this second birthday every year as well.  The church of your baptism should be able to find the date in their sacramental register.  The more we realize what God has done for us, and continues to do for us, through the grace of His sacraments, the more we will fully live the new life we received when we were born anew.

+James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Catholic Key, November 8, 2019 issue

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