On Baptism: Gift and Responsibility

“I Would Like to Encourage All of the Faithful to Rediscover the Beauty of Being Baptized”

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church celebrates the baptism of the Lord, the feast that concludes the liturgical season of Christmas. This mystery of the life of Christ visibly shows that his coming in the flesh is the sublime act of love of the three divine Persons. We can say that from this solemn event the creative, redemptive and sanctifying action of the Most Holy Trinity will become increasingly manifest in Jesus’ public mission, in his teaching, miracles, in his passion, death and resurrection. We read, in fact, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew that “Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. And behold a voice from heaven saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (3:16-17).

The Holy Spirit “settles” upon the Son and witnesses to his divinity, while the voice of the Father, coming from the heavens, expresses the communion of love. “The conclusion of the baptismal scene tells us that Jesus has received this true ‘anointing,’ that he is the awaited ‘Anointed One’ [the Christ]” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” San Francisco, 2008), in confirmation of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight” (Isaiah 42:1). He is truly the Messiah, the Son of the Most High who, coming out of the waters of the Jordan, establishes regeneration in the Spirit and opens, to those who desire it, the possibility of becoming sons of God.

It is not by chance, in fact, that every baptized person acquires the character of son from the name Christian, indisputable sign that the Holy Spirit brings man to be born “again” from the womb of the Church. Blessed Anotonio Rosmini says that “the baptized person undergoes a secret but most powerful operation by which he is raised up to the supernatural order, he is placed in communication with God” (“Del principio supremo della metodica,” Torino, 1857, n. 331). All of this was again fulfilled this morning during the Eucharistic celebration in the Sistine Chapel, where I conferred the sacrament of baptism on 21 newborns.

Dear friends, baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life, which finds its fullness through the Church. In the propitious moment of the sacrament, while the ecclesial community prays and entrusts a new child to God, the parents and godparents commit to welcome the newly baptized person supporting him in Christian formation and education. This is a great responsibility, which comes from a great gift! Thus, I would like to encourage all of the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and belonging to the great family of God, and to giving a joyous witness to their own faith so that they might bear the fruits of goodness and concord. We ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to whom we entrust the parents who are preparing their children for baptism and catechists as well. May the whole community share in the joy of being reborn by the water of the Holy Spirit!

[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

In the context of the Marian prayer, I would like to offer a special thought for the people of Haiti, one year after the terrible earthquake, which has unfortunately been followed by a grave cholera epidemic. Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” is traveling to the Caribbean island today to express my constant concern and that of the whole Church.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all the visitors and pilgrims present for this Angelus prayer. Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord and contemplates once more the revelation of God who is close to humanity, who visits his people in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to set them free from the tyranny of sin and death. May we open the doors of our hearts to Christ and welcome him into the world of today. God’s abundant blessings be upon all of you!

© Copyright 2011 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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