This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on Baptism: 5. Regeneration, (Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 6:3-4).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The catechesis on the Sacrament of Baptism leads us to speak today of the cleansing, accompanied by the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity, that is, the essential rite that properly “baptizes” – namely, immerses – in Christ’s Paschal Mystery (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1239). Saint Paul recalls the meaning of this gesture, to the Christians of Rome, asking first: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?” And then answering: “We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism unto death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead . . . we too might walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism opens the door to us to a life of resurrection, not to a worldly life <but to> a life according to Jesus.
The baptismal font is the place in which Easter is lived with Christ! The old man, with his deceitful passions, is buried (Cf. Ephesians 4:22), to be reborn a new creature; the old things have truly passed and the new are born (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). In the “Catecheses” attributed to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, explained thus to the newly baptized is what happened to them in the water of Baptism. This explanation of Saint Cyril is beautiful: “In the same instant you were dead and born, and the same salutary wave becomes for you sepulcher and mother” (n. 20, Mistagogica 2, 4-6: PG 33, 1079-1082). The rebirth of the new man calls for the man corrupted by sin to be reduced to dust. The images of the tomb and of the maternal womb referring to the font are in fact very incisive to express what a great thing happens through the simple gestures of Baptism. I like to quote the inscription that is found in the old Roman Baptistery of the Lateran, on which one reads in Latin this expression, attributed to Pope Sixtus III: “Mother Church gives birth virginally, through water, the children she conceives by the breath of God. Those of you reborn from this font, hope for the Kingdom of Heaven.” It’s beautiful: the Church that has us born, the Church that is womb, is our Mother through Baptism.
If our parents have given us earthly life, the Church has regenerated us to eternal life. We have become children in His Son Jesus (Cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7). On each one of us also, reborn of the water and of the Holy Spirit, the celestial Father has his voice resound with infinite love, which says: “You are my beloved son” (Cf. Matthew 3:17). This paternal voice, imperceptible to the ear but very audible to the heart of one who believes, accompanies us throughout our life, without ever abandoning us. Throughout life the Father says to us: “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter.” God love us so much, as a Father, and He doesn’t leave us alone. This <is true> from the moment of Baptism. Reborn as children of God, we are so forever! Baptism, in fact, isn’t repeated, because it imprints an indelible spiritual mark: “No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation” (CCC, 1272). The mark of Baptism is never lost! “Father, but if a person becomes a brigand, of the most famous, who kills people, who commits injustices, doesn’t the mark go away? “ No. To his own shame that son of God does those things, but the mark doesn’t go away. And he continues to be a son of God who goes against God, but God never disowns His children. Have you understood this last thing? God never disowns His children. Shall we repeat it all together? “God never disowns His children.” A bit louder, as I’m deaf and I didn’t understand: [They repeat louder] “God never disowns His children.” There, that’s fine.
Incorporated in Christ through Baptism, the baptized are, therefore, conformed to Him, “the first-born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Through the action of the Holy Spirit, Baptism purifies, sanctifies, justifies, to form from many only one Body in Christ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:11; 12:13). The chrismal anointing expresses it, “which is sign of the royal priesthood of the baptized <person> and of his aggregation to the community of the people of God“ (Rite of the Baptism of Children, Introduction, n. 18, 3). Therefore, the priest anoints with the sacred chrism the head of every baptized <person>, after having pronounced these words, which explain its meaning: “God himself consecrates you with the chrism of salvation, so that, inserted in Christ, Priest, King and Prophet, you are ever members of His Body for eternal life” (Ibid., n. 71).
Brothers and sisters, the whole Christian vocation is here: to live united to Christ in the Holy Church, participants of the same consecration, to carry out the very same mission in this world, bearing fruits that last forever. Animated by the one Spirit, the people of God participate, in fact, in the functions of Jesus Christ, “Priest, King and Prophet,” and bear the responsibility of mission and service that stem from it (Cf. CCC, 783-786). What does it mean to participate in the royal and prophetic priesthood of Christ? It means making of oneself a pleasing offering to God (Cr. Romans 12:1), rendering witness to Him through a life of faith and charity (Cf. Lumen Gentium, 12), putting it at the service of others, following the Lord Jesus’ example (Cf. Matthew 20:25-28; John 13:13-17). Thank you.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to welcome the participants in the General Chapters of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, of the Missionaries Daughters of Calvary, of the Franciscan Sisters Missionaries of the Child Jesus and of the Franciscan Sisters Handmaids of Mary. I encourage all to be faithful to Christ, so that, following the example of Mary Most Holy, you are able to make the joy of the Gospel shine.
I greet the Community of Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco of Rome; the parishes, in particular those of Salerno and Preturo di Montoro; the Merciful Love Lay Association; the young people of Civitanova Marche and the student groups, particularly those of Florence and of Gioia del Colle.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. We are in the month of May, time dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Cultivate devotion to Our Lady, with the daily recitation of the Rosary, so that, like the Mother of God, by welcoming the mysteries of Christ in your life, you are able to be ever more a gift of love for all. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]