In his first General Audience of 2014, Pope Francis began a new series of catecheses on the Sacraments in St. Peter’s Square, focusing today on the Sacrament of Baptism. Thousands gathered in the cold winter morning to see the Pope while members of the Golden Circus of Liana Orfei performed before and during the audience.
“Baptism is the sacrament in which our faith is founded upon and which engages us as living members in Christ and in His Church,” the Holy Father said. Along with the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confirmation, the Pope said that all three make-up a single event makes us a sign of God’s love.
The sacrament of Baptism, he stressed, is not merely a simple rite or formality, but an act that “profoundly touches our existence.”
“With Baptism we come immersed in that inexhaustible source of life that is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and death, but in the communion with God and with the brothers,” he said.
Referring to a question often asked by the Pontiff, the Holy Father called on the faithful to again search for the date of their Baptism, the date of their birth into the life of Christ and his Church.
“But the risk is to lose the memory of that which the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift that we have received. We end up considering it as only an event that happened in the past – and not even by our own will, but that of our parents -, that no longer has any effect in our present,” he said.
“We must awaken the memory of our Baptism!”
The Holy Father went onto say that this Sacrament in particular gives us the hope of walking down the path of salvation while making us “bearers of a new hope.”
“Thanks to Baptism, we are capable of forgiving and to love even those who offend us and hurt us, that we can recognize in the last ones and in the poor the face of the Lord who visits us and comes close to us and with this Baptism helps us to recognize in the face of the needy, in those suffering, even in our neighbor, the face of Jesus. It is a grace of this strength of Baptism,” he said.
Arriving to the third and final aspect of his catechesis, the 77 year old Pontiff, reminded the faithful that Baptism cannot be conferred on oneself but rather by someone who administers it in the name of the Lord.
“Baptism is a gift that is given in a context of solicitude and fraternal sharing. Always in history, on baptizes another, and another. It is a chain, a chain of grace,” he said. “But I cannot baptize myself. I must ask another for Baptism. It is an act of brotherhood, an act of filiation to the Church.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis exhorted those present to ask the Lord to experience in daily life the grace received in Baptism. In doing so, he said, “our brothers may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church.” (J.A.E.)