VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Earlier he baptized 22 infants in the Sistine Chapel.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. The season of Christmas and the Epiphany closes with today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the river Jordan. The Gospels agree in attesting that, when Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, and from on high the voice of the heavenly Father was heard, saying: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
Indistinct among the crowd of penitents, Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him, leaving the Precursor himself disconcerted. However, precisely this action reveals the singular character of Jesus’ messianism: It consisted in fulfilling the will of the Father, becoming “victim of expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The humble solidarity with sinners would lead him to death on the cross.
2. Immersion in the death and resurrection of Christ delivers man radically from sin and death and effects a new birth according to the Spirit, for a life that will never end. This is the baptism that the Risen One entrusts to the apostles, sending them out to the whole world (see Matthew 28:19). This morning, as customary, I had the joy of administering this same baptism to some newborns.
The baptism of infants, so dear to Christian tradition, makes one understand with immediate eloquence the real nature of salvation. It is a grace, namely, a free gift of the Lord. Indeed, God always loves us first and has already paid the price of our ransom with the blood of his Son.
Because of this, it is good for Christian parents to be solicitous in bringing their children to the baptismal font, so that they can receive, in virtue of the faith of the Church, the great gift of divine life. The parents themselves, then, by their example, prayer and teaching must be the first teachers of the faith of their children, so that that seed of new life can reach full maturity.
3. Turning now to the Virgin Mary, let us pray for the 22 infants who received holy baptism this morning; let us pray for their parents, for the godfathers and godmothers, and for every Christian. May the Mother of the Lord help all the baptized to reject that which is contrary to the Gospel, and to remain always faithful to the promises made at the baptismal font.
[Translation by ZENIT]