In writing of “Conversion and Baptism,” Pope John Paul II rightly cites baptism as an important step. He’s not wrong, but it is important to recognize that baptism begins the Christian life. It is far from being a final step. This is where the Tridentine Church has failed, by accepting membership cards as job-well-done. Let’s read the first paragraph of RM 47 and keep this in mind:
The apostles, prompted by the Spirit, invited all to change their lives, to be converted and to be baptized. Immediately after the event of Pentecost, Peter spoke convincingly to the crowd: “When they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'” (Acts 2:37-38). That very day some three thousand persons were baptized. And again, after the healing of the lame man, Peter spoke to the crowd and repeated: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out!” (Acts 3:19)
The testimony of Saint Luke is important, but it has a context. Today’s context is far different. Jesus has been preached to the entire world, or we’ve had the opportunity to reach the world over the past five centuries. And over the past two decades, the reach of the internet into deep corners–it raises an important question: are we doing as well as we could? Would a Saint Luke be writing confidently of us in the coming generation? Or will it be a lost era?
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