To get any kind of a handle on what Paul is saying in today's second reading, we must remember that baptism in the early Church was by total emersion and that the people to whom Paul was speaking were adults who had attained some degree of maturity prior to having been instructed and baptized.
They were men and women who, for the most part, had been immersed in a pagan culture in which the principal rule was survival of the fittest.
To become a Christian in a world which was just beginning to hear the Gospel of Jesus, demanded a far more radical conversion than would be the case today when most cultures, whether they admit it or not, have been influenced by the Christian ethic. And so the moment of baptism or formal commitment to the person and doctrine of Jesus was a moment of the highest dramatic impact.
Into the water they were lowered to be momentarily, totally immersed, buried, ...dead... you might say! And then to the cheers and applause of the assembly, lifted up from the water, from the grave, and then, having been well served by death, born again into new life... a new person. No longer just a member of this or that family, but a Christian. Before and above all else... a Christian!
Have we not just read how Jesus said that those who wish to be baptized must be prepared to put being a Christian before all other associations and relationships, even those of the most intimate nature?
And so they rose from the waters of baptism dead to whatever in their past lives was contrary to Christian teaching and alive to the teachings of the Gospel. They knew that this ritual would be meaningless had it not been for the fact that Jesus, by His death and resurrection, and by His commissioning of the Apostles as ministers of baptism and the Word, had endowed this rite with life, with His life.
And so, the well instructed among the Christian converts knew that becoming a Christian was not like joining the army. It involved being literally regenerated. It meant being adopted by The Father with all of the privileges and obligations inherent in such a relationship.
Now we have all received that same baptism. Most of us were infants at the time. We were given that new life as a gift requested by our parents or guardians.
It is up to each one of us to accept that gift again and again. Think of that the next time you come into the church, dip a finger into the Holy Water font, bless yourself... reaffirming your baptism, In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.