Have you ever gotten that knock on your door and upon answering it, you are greeted by a couple of smiling faces who you find out are from the local Christian church in your neighborhood. They tell you that, “We just stopped by to ask you if you have been “born again?” Maybe you have never encountered that question, but if you had, how would you respond to their question?
First of all, what exactly did the person mean by the question. Well, for many evangelical Christians, the idea of “born again” refers to a personal relationship with God through Jesus, established by a moment in time when a person has an instantaneous experience of conversion, which is often accompanied by great emotion. They would equate this as “being saved,” which means that all of their sins are now forgiven and the person is now ready for heaven. At this point, the person is thought to have become a Christian in the fullest sense. There are some churches that would even say that being “born again” is the mark of a true Christian. As a Catholic, we too would agree that being “born again” is the mark of being Christian, but not exactly to their meaning.
All Christians agree that to be saved, you have to be “born again.” Jesus said; “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above (Jn. 3:3)” When a Catholic says that he has been “born again,” he is referring to the graces he received when he was baptized. After Nicodemus asks Jesus how can someone be born again, Jesus explains it very clearly when he says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (Jn. 3:5).”
Just prior to Jesus explaining to Nicodemus about the necessity of regeneration through baptism, Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist. As Jesus went down into the water during his baptism, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father comes down from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son” (cf. Matt. 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:30–34). Through Jesus’ baptism, we see what happens when we are baptized: The water symbolizes our dying with Christ (Rom. 6:4-5); we receive sanctifying grace, along with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27); and we become adopted children of God (Rom. 8:15–17). We see after Jesus’ teaching of being born again through water and the Spirit (Jn. 3:1-21), it says in verse 22, “Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized.”
Through baptism, there is a water and spirit rebirth that takes place. It is when a repentant sinner is transformed by having his sins washed away and is brought into a state of grace. In the book of Acts, St. Peter says, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).”
A sermon by St. Augustine about being reborn: http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/384/Easter_Octave__Baptism_as_New_Creation_in_Christ___Augustine.html
The Catholic Church recognizes baptism, no matter what Christian Faith Tradition you belong, as long as it is “Trinitarian ( in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit),”as a sacrament. It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that, “Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church…Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn (CCC, #1271).”
We as Christians are called to a conversion of the heart on a daily basis, it is not meant to be just a one time event. For most of us, we do not have a “road to Damascus” moment as St. Paul did. It usually takes place at different moments throughout our faith journeys. Baptism is where our rebirth starts. So, when you are asked the question, “Are you born again?,” you can answer by saying, “You better believe it!”
Until next time, God bless.