Second Reading (Opt. C): Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7
God's Grace and Loving Kindness
2:11 The grace of God appeared to everyone. 12 It taught us that we can reject evil and false desires of this world. That grace can live in us right now, making us moderate, right with God and pious. 13 With a hope that brings us happiness, we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself up for us. When he did this, he ransomed us from every action that broke God's Law. And he cleansed us, making us his own people who really want to do good things.
3:4 Once the loving kindness of our saving God appeared, he did save us, not because of any good things we did, but because of the mercy he showed us. He did this through a baptism that makes us born again and makes us new with the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured all of his Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ, the one who saved us. 7 Now that he declared we are innocent in his sight, we can become his heirs with the hope of everlasting life.
2:11 For the grace of God appeared to all men, 12 teaching us, so that renouncing the wicked and worldly desires, (that grace) might live (in us) moderately and righteously and piously in (the) present age. 13 (The ones are) waiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great GOD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, 14 who gave HIMSELF for us, so that (HE) ransomed us from all unlawfulness and cleanse for HIMSELF (HIS) own people, zealous for good works.
3:4 But when the kindness and love of our Savior God appeared, 5 not out of the works of the (things) in righteousness that we did but according to his mercy, (he) saved us through a baptism of spiritual rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom (he) poured out upon us abundantly through JESUS CHRIST our SAVIOR, 7 in order that, being justified by that grace, (we) might become heirs in the hope of eternal life.
2:13 "...our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." This construction clearly stated the divinity of Christ, as the conjunction "and" connected "God" and "Savior" to Jesus Christ.
3:14 "...kindness and love of our Savior God..." These two terms reflected the Jewish notion of "hesed" or loving kindness. The Hebrew term appeared over 30 times in the Old Testament. It was the reason God chose his people, not out of any necessity, but out of free choice. The term was akin to divine mercy.
The author of Titus revealed his Jewish roots in this letter. Through a parallel construction in 2:11 and 3:4, he conflated the notions of "grace" and "loving kindness." Grace was the gracious gift of God; as the note above pointed out, loving kindness explained the reason why God did what he did, out of his free choice to show favor. The author framed each notion as a temporal event, when both "appeared." so, what did "grace" and "loving kindness" refer to? Simply, life in the Spirit, which God poured out upon the faithful through Jesus Christ (3:6).
According to the author, life in the Spirit changed the believer in terms of morality and perspective. Instead of swinging from one fad to another, from a paper-thin morality culture touts as relevant, the Spirit filled believer moderates his or her behavior, orients choices towards God and places prime importance on spiritual matters (2:12). That shift in morality results in a change of attitude. Disappointment and depression based upon unfilled expectations gives way to hope, an anticipation that Jesus will return and fill the believer with his presence (2:13).
Notice, however, a more significant shift, away from the activity of the person to the prerogative of Christ. As a Law breaker, the believer cannot save himself. Salvation required the self-giving of Christ to "ransom" the sinner, a reference to freeing someone from debtor prison through the payment of fines. That altruistic act also "cleansed" the believer and created a new people. Again, notice the way the author framed the change. Christ made the Law-breakers, the unkosher, clean or kosher, enabling them to perform righteous acts for God. In this way, Jesus became the Savior (2:14).
How did God make the sinner righteous, the guilty innocent ("justified by grace" in 3:7)? He baptized them and gave them the Spirit. Again, notice the shift in actors. In the ritual practice of the time, a Jew would cleanse himself from the pollution of the day and prepare to enter the presence of YHWH through a ritual bath. The Christian, however, received cleanse through the immersion God gave him or her. Then, the Spirit which the Lord sent upon the believer renewed him or her, changing moral lifestyle and giving that person a reason for hope, especially for eternal life (3:5).
We were baptized at some point in life, many of us as infants. But, do we ever reflect upon the great gift and mercy God showered upon at the moment of Baptism? Shouldn't we now?
Reflect upon your past. How has God changed you? How would your life be different if you were not baptized?