VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- As is tradition on the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, Benedict XVI baptized a group of infants on Sunday, exhorting their parents to understand prayer as the first step in educating.
"Educating is very demanding, sometimes it is quite hard on our always limited human capacities. But educating becomes a marvelous mission if it is done in collaboration with God, who is the first and true educator of every man," the Pope told the group, gathered in the Sistine Chapel.
Referring to the readings of the Mass, the Holy Father spoke of the Word of God and the sacraments as the "springs of salvation."
"Adults are the first ones who need to nourish themselves from these sources so that they can guide the younger people in their growth," he said. "The parents have to give much but to be able to give they also for their part have to receive, otherwise they will be emptied, they will run out. The parents are not the springs, as we priests are not the springs either: we are rather like channels through which the lifeblood of God's love must pass. If we stop receiving from the ultimate source, we too will first of all feel the negative effects and we will no longer be able to educate others."
In this context, the Pontiff exhorted the parents to recall that education comes first through witness.
"The true educator does not bind people to himself, he is not possessive," Benedict XVI said. "He wants the child, or the disciple, to learn to know the truth and establish a personal relationship with it. The educator does his duty to the end, he does not withdraw his attentive and faithful presence; but his objective is that the learner hears the voice of the truth speak to his heart and follows it on a personal journey."
But, the Pope continued, drawing from the scene of Christ's baptism, "a great comfort to us in educating others in the faith" is knowing "that we are not alone and that our witness is supported by the Holy Spirit."
"It is very important for you parents and also for you godfathers and godmothers to believe strongly in the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit, to call upon him and welcome him in you through prayer and the sacraments," the Holy Father affirmed. "He is the one in fact who enlightens the mind, who makes the heart of the educator burn so that he or she knows how to transmit the knowledge of the love of Christ. Prayer is the first condition for educating, because in praying we create the disposition in ourselves of letting God have the initiative, of entrusting our children to him, who knows them before we do and better than us, and knows perfectly what their true good is. And, at the same time, when we pray we open ourselves to the inspirations of God to do our part better, which in any case is our duty and we must accomplish. The sacraments, especially Eucharist and Penance, permit us to perform the educative action in union with Christ, in communion with him and continually renewed by his forgiveness. Prayer and the sacraments obtain that light for us that allows us to be both tender and strong, kind and firm, to be silent and to speak when the time is right, to rebuke and correct justly."
Learning to be children
The Pope continued with this theme during his address before praying the midday Angelus.
He offered a reflection on being children, saying this "is the fundamental condition that we all have in common. Not all of us are parents but we are all certainly children."
The Holy Father said that as children, we have the chance to accept life as a gift, "and, in a certain sense, 'become' that which we already are: we can become children. This transformation marks a point of maturity in our being and in our relationship with our parents, which fills us with gratitude. It is a transformation that renders us, too, capable of being parents ourselves, not biologically but morally."
"We are children in our relationship to God also," the Pontiff continued. "God is at the origin of the existence of every creature, and he is Father of every human being in a unique way: God has with him or her a special, personal relationship. Each one of us is willed, is loved by God. And in this relationship with God as well we can, so to say, be 'reborn,' that is, become what we are. This happens through faith, through a profound and personal 'yes' to God as origin and foundation of our existence. With this 'yes' I receive life as a gift of the Father who is in heaven, a Parent whom I do not see but in whom I believe and in the depths of my heart feel to be my Father and the Father of all my brothers in humanity, an immensely good and faithful Father."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of homily:www.zenit.org/article-34085?l=english
Full text of Angelus address:www.zenit.org/article-34086?l=english