In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
The holy Church and the holy fathers strongly exhort, urge, and beseech priests to remind the faithful about the great Mystery of Baptism. And when could it be better to think about it than today, the day of the celebration of the Baptism of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ?
The Lord was in no need of Baptism Himself, but He commanded St. John the Forerunner to baptize Him so as to fulfill all righteousness. The Lord thereby indicated to us the necessity for Baptism. One night, conversing with Nikodemos, one of the believing Pharisees, the Lord explained to Him that if a man is not born of water and the Spirit, then he will not enter the Kingdom of God. If a man believes in God and desires to enter the Kingdom of God, then he absolutely must receive the Sacrament of Baptism; for it is a necessary condition for man’s entrance into the spiritual community, into the Church, and only through it can he have hope of attaining to the Kingdom of God. He that believeth and is baptized, says the Lord, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Everyone who believes and wants to be saved, every Christian, must himself receive the Sacrament of Baptism and baptize his children.
What occurs in the Mystery of Baptism? In it comes the death of the old, sinful man. Therefore, if someone receives the Sacrament of Baptism in adulthood with faith and repentance, then both Original Sin and his personal sins are remitted. Man comes out of the font like an angel of God. There is a host of examples of when the action of the Sacrament of Baptism on those present and on the one being baptized was obvious. Sometimes the one baptized would shine like the sun, entirely changing even on the outside, but inwardly he experienced the bliss of the Kingdom of God. Receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, he is reborn by the Holy Spirit and vested in the Lord Himself, for the Lord enters into his heart. We heard today, “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” This means the Lord enters into their hearts. However, if after Baptism a man lives not like a Christian, but like a pagan, insulting the Lord with every sin and not repenting of them—if he does not cleanse his soul from sin, he will be like unto one unbaptized. This is why we often hear from unbelievers: “You are believers, baptized, and you are worse than us.” Thus, the Word of God says that the name of God is blasphemed by you, Christians, for you live worse than the pagans.
The Lord gave man freedom, and he can move either towards God or towards the devil. There is no third path. There is no middle position. Therefore, we, Christians, should go towards God, seek Him, believe in Him, receive the Sacraments, obey the commandments of God, and if we do not fulfill something, then acknowledge it and do not justify ourselves, but weep for our sins before Him and ask forgiveness, so that He, the merciful Lord, would forgive and cleanse our souls. Whoever consciously sins, justifies himself in his sins, and doesn’t repent of them, opposes the Lord, becomes an enemy of God, and moves towards the devil.
Without the Mystery of Baptism, I repeat, man cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, says the Lord, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That is why the enemy of our salvation, the devil, so fights against the Sacrament of Baptism, trying in any way possible to diminish its importance and prevent it from being celebrated. Therefore, if someone isn’t baptized as an infant, then he must be baptized as an adult, having previously repented of his sins and given an oath to God to live as a Christian. To cross the sea, you need a ship—you won’t cross it by swimming. In order to cross the sea of life and to reach the Kingdom of God, you must enter the ship of the Church, for only on the ship of the Church can you cross the stormy sea of life and reach the Kingdom of God. To enter the Church is possibly only through the Sacrament of Baptism.
And if a man, having become a member of the Church, continues to fall into sin due to his weakness, but yet pursues the Lord and repents, then although he falls away from the Church by his sins, he is purified by his sincere repentance and is again united with the Church. Thus, at Confession, the priest reads the prayer, “Reconcile this sinner and unite him to Thy holy Church,” and then he reads the prayer of absolution and looses him from his sins. We should all know that no one is saved without the Mystery of Baptism. Therefore, we must baptize our children. If they couldn’t be baptized in childhood, then bequeath them this wish with your last gasp: “Children, here is my request—if you have compassion and love me at all, if you want to comfort me, promise you that you will receive the Sacrament of Baptism.”
The Lord uses every means possible to try to save everyone: Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth. Every kind of help from the Lord, and from the saints of God, and from the angels comes to the man who sincerely tries with all his might to please the Lord, to fulfill His holy commandments, and to repent of his every sin. Perhaps a man knows little of the faith, perhaps he has little faith, perhaps he doubts, but let him tell his doubts to the Lord: “Lord, I believe, I want to believe, but help my unbelief. Disbelief torments my soul. Lord, I believe, but I also doubt; be merciful and help me. Lord, grant me to receive the Sacrament of Baptism and to enter the Church of Christ!” No matter the obstacles, a man must be baptized because there is no other path to the Kingdom of God.
But, having been baptized, we must live as the Lord indicates, and not as our lying and broken reason and our corrupted heart, so full of sins, indicate, prompting: Live as you know. The Lord brings us into the Kingdom of God, and the Lord requires that we walk that path which He shows us. This path is the study of the Gospel commandments, the commandments of God, life according to these commandments, repentance, and prayer to the Lord that He would not leave us, but that through whatever means He deems, whether through grief, or sickness, or prosperity, He might save us, and not deprive us of the Kingdom of God. But I repeat: There is no other way there than through the Sacrament of Baptism. Let us try to read the Word of God, especially the Gospels, where is written the life of the Lord, and His sufferings for the sake of our salvation, His commandments, and His teachings. Let us be imbued with the Spirit of God, trying to fulfill His holy commandments; let us repent of our wrongdoings and beg the Lord to vouchsafe that after death we might be partakers of His Kingdom.