Summary: We expand the meaning of "believe and be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Tuesday in Easter Week
If you ever wished for a very short Catechism, Peter gives it to you today. What must you do to be saved: "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. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him."
This is like a verbal hologram that contains the information we need for our life in Christ. Repentance summarizes our attitude toward ourselves and God. We, by ourselves, can do nothing. We are sinners in need of God’s grace. So we turn to Him without reserve and ask for forgiveness, give Him praise and accept His grace and live by His law.
Be baptized is code for the whole sacramental system. It’s a part that stands for the whole–the sacraments of initiation in particular. So the other half of the Christian life, the energizing part, is the sacramental life, praise, prayer.
Peter’s use of the word “promise” links his homily to the covenant with Abraham and the promises to Moses sealed in the Law. It reaches back to make the connection between Abraham, Moses and Jesus, a straight trajectory that ends in the kingdom of God. Remember that Peter’s homily was preached on that first Pentecost, which in the Jewish law was a celebration of the giving of the Mosaic law.
Finally there is mission. The promise is to the Jews and their children, which means that age was no detriment to baptism and full inclusion in the covenant people of Christ. Moreover the Christian life is for both Jew and those far off, the Gentiles. That means all of us–Irish and Latino and German and Alsatian and native American.
Christ’s passion, death and resurrection made this all possible. If we can be incorporated into the mystery of Christ, it is because He did it all–he won for us the moral right to be children of God, and His own brothers. It is this that gives us the opportunity to be joined together in this brotherhood, this family of Mary, under her direction and to fulfill her mission.