During the summer I am immersed in Protestantism while at work. Some of the college students that come to the Y are new Christians, and it's not uncommon for them to share the story of when they were “born again.”
We Catholics don't talk like that. We hardly know how to answer the questions “Have you been saved?” or “Have you been born again?” Yet if we have been baptized, the answer is “yes.”
The memory book I received as a college graduation gift contains a Polaroid of my baptism: Mom and Dad hold me over the small baptismal font; my godparents Patti and Randy crowd around as the priest blesses me.
I don't remember this at all, but that doesn't matter. Though a personal emotional experience is absent, the grace of the sacrament is the same. I didn't need to know exactly what was happening at the time, because my parents knew and because I would come to know.
The same was true of circumcision in the Old Covenant. Every male child of Israel was incorporated into the Chosen People through circumcision, which was a sign of the covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And the decision to do this was not the infant's, but the parents'.
In this way, circumcision foreshadowed baptism of the New Covenant. And since baptism is a sacrament—a physical, tangible way that God makes Himself present for us to experience—it truly incorporates us into the Body of Christ. And unlike circumcision of old, it also washes us clean of sin and brings us into a new spiritual life to share in Christ's Resurrection. This is what St. Peter means when he says “Baptism...now saves you” (cf. 1 Pt 3:21).
My parents' love brought me into their earthly family, and three weeks later that love combined with their love for God brought me into the spiritual family of the Church.
Twenty-nine years ago today, I was born again of water and the Spirit (cf. Jn 3:3-5).