A short biblical passage supplied by St. Peter in Acts helps us understand more about how to get to heaven. Having heard a sermon that he preached on Pentecost, many were struck to the heart and asked what they should do. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone 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).
But this is not to be understood as a ritualistic observance we fulfill on one day, but is meant to usher in a whole renewal of the human person. And thus we should look at all three things that Peter indicates in some more detail.
The word translated as “repent” is metanoia, which means more than to clean up our act. It means to come to a whole new mind, rooted in what God teaches and reveals, with new priorities and the ability to make better decisions.
To be baptized is not only to be cleansed of our sins, but also to see our old self put to death and for Christ to come alive in us. Baptism ushers in the beginnings of a lifelong healing process that must continue by God’s grace. Baptism also points to all the sacraments of the Church. Having been brought to new life, we must also be fed by the Eucharist and by God’s word, we must see the wounds of sins healed in confession, we must be strengthened for a mission by confirmation. Baptism also makes us a member of the Body of Christ. And thus, we are called to walk with all the members of Christ’s body — the Church. St. Peter also speaks of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. And thus we are taught that our dignity is to be swept up into the life, love and wisdom of God. We are called to be sanctified by the Spirit, to see sins put to death and many virtues come alive.
As can be seen, there are many dimensions to the work of God in saving us. Thus, we are to walk in a loving covenant relationship with the Lord. We are to do this in fellowship with his Church, through the grace of the sacraments, obedience to the Word of God and prayer (see Acts 2:42).