Copyright - Vatican Media

GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Baptism (Part III): Not a Magic Formula, But a Gift

‘Baptism isn’t a magical formula, but a gift of the Holy Spirit, which enables one who receives it “to fight against the spirit of evil’

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from all over the world
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on Baptism: 3. The Strength to Overcome Evil.
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made an appeal for the Inter-Korean Summit.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
* * *
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue our reflection on Baptism, ever in the light of the Word of God. It’s the Gospel that enlightens the candidates and arouses adherence to the faith:  “Baptism is ‘the sacrament of faith’ in a particular way, since it is the sacramental entry into the life of faith” [Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1236]. And faith is the giving of oneself to the Lord Jesus, acknowledged as “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14), “light of the world” (John 9:5),  “resurrection and life” (John 11:25), as the itinerary shows, followed still today, by catechumens now close to receiving Christian initiation. Educated by listening to Jesus, by His teaching and by His works, catechumens relive the experience of the Samaritan woman thirsty for living water, of the man born blind who opens his eyes to the light, of Lazarus who comes out of the sepulcher. The Gospel has within itself the strength to transform one who accepts it with faith, tearing him away from the dominion of the Evil One, so that he learns to serve the Lord with joy and newness of life.
One never goes alone to the baptismal font, but accompanied by the prayer of the whole Church, as the Litanies of the Saints recall, which precede the Prayer of Exorcism and the pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of the catechumens. They are gestures that, since antiquity, assure all those that prepare themselves to be reborn as children of God, that the prayer of the Church assists them in the struggle against evil, accompanies them on the way of goodness, helps them to subtract themselves from the power of sin to pass into the kingdom of divine grace. The prayer of the Church – the Church prays and prays for all, for all of us! We, as Church, pray for others. It’s a good thing to pray for others. How many times we don’t have an urgent need and <so> we don’t pray. We must pray, united to the Church, for others: “Lord, I pray to you for those that are in need, for those that don’t have faith . . .” Don’t forget: the prayer of the Church is always on-going. However, we must enter this prayer and pray for all the people of God and for those that are in need of prayers Therefore, the path of adult catechumens is marked by repeated exorcisms pronounced by the priest (Cf. CCC, 1237), namely, by prayers that invoke deliverance from all that separates one from Christ and impedes profound union with Him. For children also, God is asked to free them from original sin and consecrate them dwelling of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 56). The children – pray for the children, for <their> spiritual and corporal health. It’s a way of protecting children with prayer. As the Gospels attests, Jesus Himself fought and expelled devils to manifest the advent of the Kingdom of God (Cf. Matthew 12:28): His victory over the power of the Evil One leaves free room to the lordship of God who makes glad and reconciles with life.
Baptism isn’t a magical formula, but a gift of the Holy Spirit, which enables one who receives it “to fight against the spirit of evil,” believing that “God sent His Son into the world to destroy Satan’s power and transfer man from darkness to His Kingdom of infinite light” (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 56). We know from experience that Christian life is always subject to temptation, especially the temptation of separating oneself from God, from His Will, from communion with Him, to fall back into worldly seductions. And Baptism prepares us. It give us the strength for this daily struggle, also to fight against the devil who – as Saint Peter says – seeks as a lion to devour us, to destroy us.  
In addition to prayer, there is then the anointing of the chest with the oil of catechumens, with which “they receive vigour to renounce the devil and sin, before approaching the font and being born to a new life” (Blessing of the oil. Premesse, n. 3). Because of the property of oil to penetrate the tissues of the body bringing them benefit, ancient fighters used to sprinkle themselves with oil to tone the muscles and flee more easily from the adversary’s grip. In the light of this symbolism, the Christians of the first centuries adopted the use of anointing the body of candidates to Baptism with the oil blessed by the Bishop, in order to show, through this “sign of salvation,” that the power of Christ the Saviour strengthens to fight against evil and overcome it (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 105).
It’s tiring to fight against evil, to flee from its deceits, to have strength again after an exhausting struggle, but we must know that the whole of Christian life is a battle. However, we must also know that we’re not alone, that Mother Church prays so that her children, regenerated in Baptism, won’t succumb to the snares of the Evil One but overcome him by the power of Christ’s Passover. Strengthened by the Risen Lord, who defeated the prince of this world (Cf. John 12:31), we can also repeat with Saint Paul’s faith: “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). All of us can overcome, overcome everything, but with the strength that comes to us from Christ.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
In Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful.
I am happy to receive the Divine Word Missionaries, the Handmaids of Mary Ministers of the Sick and the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres. I encourage all to be faithful to Christ to have the joy of the Gospel shine.
I greet the Confirmation candidates of the Diocese of Treviso, accompanied by the Archbishop, Monsignor Gianfranco Gardin; the pilgrimage of the Groups of the Gospel of the Tent of the Magnicat; the students; the Parishes; the Italian Biochemical Institute; the Bands Complex of Casalbordino; the New Society Association Sant’Antonio di Sutri and the Rogationist alumni.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. May his intercession sustain you in your journey of faith so that, following his example, you can become hearers and heralds of Christ’s Gospel, witnessing it with your life.
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Friday, April 27, an Inter-Korean Summit will be held at Panmunjom, in which the leaders of the two Koreas, Mister Moon Jae-in and Mister Kim Jong Un will take part. This meeting will be a propitious occasion to start a transparent dialogue and a concrete process of reconciliation and rediscovered fraternity, in order to guarantee peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the entire world.
To the Korean people, who ardently desire peace, I assure my personal prayer and the closeness of all the Church. The Holy See accompanies, supports and encourages every useful and sincere initiative to build a better future, in the spirit of encounter and friendship among peoples. I ask those that have direct political responsibilities to have the courage to hope, making themselves “craftsmen” of peace, while I exhort them to continue with trust the path undertaken for the good of all. And, as God is Father of all and Father of peace, I invite you to pray to our Father, God, Father of all, for the Korean people, be it those that are in the South be it those that are in the North.
[Recitation of the Our Father]
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Staff Reporter

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation