At the heart of the great Easter Vigil, celebrated last Saturday evening, is the Blessing of the Font and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises. So important is this ritual that in this country the bishops have mandated that the Renewal of Baptismal Promises is to be repeated on Easter Sunday morning in order that those who did not attend the Easter Vigil do not miss out. As an extension of this every Sunday during the Easter Season we will begin the Sung Mass with the Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water in place of the usual Penitential Act. As we are showered with the water blessed by the Priest we recall the graces showered on us in our washing from sin in the waters of the font, and rejoice that through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, which we have just celebrated in Holy Week, we are restored to paradise and to life in God.
Baptism is essentially linked to our faith in Christ; it is the gateway into life in Christ and so also into life in his Mystical Body, the Church. Baptism and the faith of the Church are closely connected; hence the reason why the Blessing of the Font and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises are held together in the Church’s liturgical life. Our faith in Christ is of course renewed each time we make the Sign of the Cross, especially with Holy Water on entering a church. But it is also professed and proclaimed in a solemn way each and every time we recite the Nicene Creed, as we do at every Sunday Mass, and on the appointed holydays and feasts of the liturgical year. The creed or credo, from the Latin “I believe,” is our central rule or symbol of faith; it is the set of beliefs essential to all Christians. In fact it is a statement so important to our Christian identity that it is not kept on the shelf simply as a document of the Church, but is solemnly renewed by in the action of the Sacred Liturgy itself.
In the Creed, amongst many other truths, we profess our faith that Jesus Christ is both God and Man. We say: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God … true God from true God … For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven … and became man.” We believe that Christ was, as the Fathers of the early Church often put-it, the “God-Man.” Not that he was like some superhero—a sort-out supernatural Superman or Batman—but that he was entirely God and entirely Man: one person with two natures. This is what theologians call the “hypostatic union”; the truth that in the man, Jesus Christ, we also find the fullness of God.
This, the unity of God and Man in the person of Christ, is what makes our Christian faith unique; what makes our choice to be Christian truly life-changing. Jesus was not interested in his popularity simply as a teacher or a good man, but in who people knew him to be. “Whom do people say that I am?” he asks Simon Peter. And Peter’s response? “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Unlike followers of other religions and faiths, the Christian believes that the central figure of our life—Jesus Christ—is not simply a leader or teacher, still less a lifestyle coach who offers us a path to be a good person. Rather we believe that Jesus Christ is God and Man in one person. This is in contrast to other religious tracks. The Buddha points to a way; Mohammad points to a revelation he believes to have received; Confucius proposes a path he has discerned. Jesus, strikingly and uniquely, claims to be the Way itself: “nobody comes to the Father,” he declares, “except through me.” This led C. S. Lewis to coin his popular argument or “trilemma” in his book Mere Christianity: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” In other words, Jesus is either who he says he is—God and Man—or he is not worth following at all.
This realisation of the fullness of who Christ is, is at the heart of the familiar passage from the gospel that we have just heard. Saint Thomas, known throughout the centuries as “Doubting Thomas,” is in fact very far from doubt when he expresses his belief in the divinity and humanity of Christ: the fact that Jesus Christ is both God and Man in one single person. When he meets the Risen Lord, Thomas proclaims: “My Lord and my God!” And in that moment he sees and names Christ for who he really is. Saint Thomas answers that question—“Whom do people say that I am?”—with what Pope Benedict called “the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament.” And even the great Saint Augustine talks about this moment in his commentary on the Gospel according to Saint John, saying that Thomas “saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched” (In Ev. Io. 121, 5). In other words he acknowledged that in Jesus Christ, and thus also in his teachings, we do not simply find a way, a truth, a life; instead we find God himself: the Way, the Truth, the Life.
This is also our faith: that in Jesus Christ we find our return to God and the paradise which, through sin, we once lost. And it is a faith perfectly expressed in our adoration of the Lord in the Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament; in the presence of the very flesh and blood of the Man who is God. When we kneel in prayer we say with our gesture, “My Lord and my God.” When we receive Holy Communion worthily and well we say with our heart, “My Lord and my God.” When we follow the Lord’s commands and live according to his way—the Way—we say with our lives, “My Lord and my God.” May that faith of Saint Thomas be given us and ever on our lips and in our hearts, and may we come, with Thomas and all the blessed, to the fullness of God’s presence in the life of the heavenly Jerusalem; where our celebration of the Easter triumph never fades and never ends.