With Christ’s Baptism, the heavens were once again opened and the earth became “the dwelling place of God among mankind.” These were the words addressed by Pope Francis to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today.
Prior to greeting the pilgrims for his Sunday Angelus address, the Pope presided over a Mass at the Sistine Chapel to celebrate the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. During the celebration, the Holy Father baptized 33 infants: 20 girls and 13 boys.
Drizzling rain didn’t stop the thousands of pilgrims from seeing the Pope, many of whom were carrying banners wishing the Pope a safe trip. The Holy Father will depart tomorrow for his apostolic journey to Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
“Thank you for your good wishes written on that banner, thank you so much!” the Pope said. “And I ask you to accompany me with prayers and I also ask the Sri Lankan and Filipino people who are here in Rome to pray especially for me and for this trip. Thank you!”
During his address, the Pope recalled today’s Gospel from St. Mark, which recounted Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan. Recalling St. Mark’s description of the “heavens being torn open”, the Holy Father said that it indicated the end of the separation between God and man caused by sin.
“Sin alienates us from God and interrupts the link between earth and heaven, determining our misery and failure of our lives,” he said. “The opened heavens show that God has given His grace so that the earth may bear fruit. Thus the earth has become the dwelling place of God among mankind and each one of us has the possibility of meeting with the Son of God, experiencing all the love and infinite mercy.”
The 78 year old Pontiff reminded the faithful that the presence of God can be found in the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist. He also said God can be recognized in those who suffer.
“We can recognize it in the face of our brothers and sisters, particularly in the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugees: they are the living flesh of the suffering Christ and visible image of the invisible God,” he said.
Remember the Holy Spirit
Continuing his address, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to remember to pray to the Holy Spirit, who many times is forgotten. Echoing his words during his homily today in the Sistine Chapel, the Pope said that often times, the Holy Spirit becomes “the forgotten One.”
“We often pray to Jesus; we pray to the Father, especially in the ‘Our Father’; but not often to the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We need to ask His help, His strength, His inspiration. The Holy Spirit who has entirely animated the life and ministry of Jesus, it is the same Spirit that today guides the Christian existence, the existence of a man and a woman who say they want to be Christian.”
Concluding his address, the Holy Father called on the faithful to place their Christian lives under the action of the Holy Spirit and to find the “apostolic courage to overcome easy worldly comforts.” A Christian or a community that is “deaf” to the voice of the Holy Spirit, he said, is also “mute” and cannot speak or evangelize.
“Pray often to the Holy Spirit so that He may help us, give us the strength, give us the inspiration and lead us forward,” the Pope said.
After greeting the various groups and pilgrims in the Square, Pope Francis reminded the faithful to reflect during today’s Feast on the joy their own Baptism. “Remember what I asked you to do,” he said, “look for the date of your Baptism, so that each one of us can say: I was baptized on that day. May this day give us the joy of Baptism.”