Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.
Today we witness the baptism of Finley Edward. It is the first step of the sacrament of Baptism-Confirmation by which we enter and grow in the regenerated life. While the two parts of this sacrament, both baptism and confirmation, seem like bookends, they are not. Rather they are steps in a journey, a journey from condemnation to freedom.
What is best and most amazing in the process of Baptism-Confirmation is that by our actions of faith, our proclamation of belief in Jesus and trust in His salvation, and rejection of all sin we are saved and are completely freed. We are changed in the most essential of ways. Theologians call it an ontological change. Really old folks like me were taught that our soul receives an indelible mark – something that can never be undone. This is why we call it what Jesus called it in speaking with Nicodemus – regeneration or rebirth: Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again… Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Today, St. John reminds us of what we received. We have new hearts and sprits that will not condemn us. They have been freed and that should give us great confidence. At the same time, St. John knew that we know somewhat differently.
While we are able to have confidence, while we have been essentially changed and regenerated, we fall. We fail to keep the commandments of God – the two key ones – to love God enabled by our belief in Jesus because in Jesus we know God, and to love each other. When we fall short in those regards we loose confidence.
When we forget the commandments, are away from the vine, apart from the love of Jesus’ community, we lose confidence. That’s when our hearts condemn us. Yet if we remain on the path of transformation we are freed, and in freedom bear much good fruit.