This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 in Paul VI Hall, 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 reflected on the theme: “Baptism: Door of Hope” (From the Apostle Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 3:26-28).
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.
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
There was a time when the churches were oriented to the East. One entered the sacred building by a door open to the West and, walking in the nave, one was directed to the East. It was an important symbol for ancient man, an allegory that in the course of history progressively declined. We men of the modern age, much less used to gathering the great signs of the cosmos, almost never notice a particular of the sort. The West is the cardinal point of the sunset, where light dies. The East, instead, is the place where the darkness is overcome by the early light of dawn and reminds us of Christ, Sun come from on High to the horizon of the world (Cf. Luke 1:78).
The ancient rites of Baptism foresaw that the catechumens should emit the first part of their profession of faith with their eyes turned to the West. And in that position, they were asked: “Do you renounce Satan, his service and his works?” And the future Christians repeated in unison: “I renounce!” Then they turned to the apse, in the direction of the East, where light is born, and the candidates to Baptism were again asked: “Do you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” And this time they answered: “I believe!”
In modern times, the fascination of this rite has been partially lost: we have lost sensitivity to the language of the cosmos. The profession of faith of course remains, made according to the baptismal interrogation, which is proper to the celebration of some Sacraments. In any case, it remains intact in its meaning. What does it mean to be Christians? It means to look at the light, to continue to make the profession of faith in the light, including when the world is enveloped by night and darkness.
Christians are not exempt from darkness, external and also internal. They don’t live outside of the world, however, by the grace of Christ received in Baptism, they are “oriented” men and women: they don’t believe in darkness, but in the light of day; they do not succumb to the night, but wait for the dawn; they are not defeated by death, but long to rise again; they are not bowed by evil, because they always trust in the infinite possibility of the good. And this is our Christian hope: the light of Jesus, the salvation that Jesus brings us with His light, which saves us from the darkness.
We are those that believe that God is Father: this is the light! We are not orphans, we have a Father and our Father is God. We believe that Jesus descended among us, walked in our same life, making Himself above all companion of the poorest and frailest: this is the light! We believe that the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly for the good of humanity and of the world, and even the greatest sorrows of history will be overcome: this is the hope to which we wake up again every morning! We believe that every affection, every friendship, every good desire, every love, even the most minute and neglected, will find their fulfilment one day in God: this is the force that drives us to embrace enthusiastically our everyday life! And this is our hope: to live in hope and to live in the light, in the light of God the Father, in the light of Jesus the Savior, in the light of the Holy Spirit that pushes us to go on in life.
Then there is another very beautiful sign of the Baptismal Liturgy, which reminds us of the importance of light. At the end of the rite, a candle is handed to the parents – if it is a baby – or to the one baptized – if he is an adult – whose flame is lighted with the Paschal candle. It is the large candle that in the Easter Vigil enters the church, which is completely dark, to manifest the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection. From that candle, all light their own candle and spread the flame to their neighbors: in that sign is the gradual propagation of Jesus’ Resurrection in the lives of all Christians. The life of the Church — I will say a rather strong word — is ‘contaminazione'[contamination] of light. The more light of Jesus we Christians have, the more light of Jesus there is in the life of the Church, the more she is alive. The life of the Church is ‘contaminazione’ [contamination] of light.
The most beautiful exhortation we can address to one another is that of reminding ourselves always of our Baptism. I would like to ask you: how many of you remember the date of your Baptism? Don’t answer because some might be embarrassed! Think about it and if you don’t remember it, you have a task to do at home today: go to your mother, your father, your aunt, your uncle your grandmother, grandfather and ask them: “What was the date of my Baptism?” And never forget it again! Is this clear? Will you do it? Today’s commitment is to learn or to remember the date of Baptism, which is the date of rebirth, it is the date of light, it is the date in which — I allow myself a word – in which we were contaminated by the light of Christ. We were born twice: the first to natural life; the second, thanks to the encounter with Christ, in the baptismal font. There we died to death, to live as children of God in this world. There we became human as we could never have imagined. See why we must all spread the perfume of the Chrism with which we were marked on the day of our Baptism. The Spirit of Jesus lives and works in us, firstborn of many brothers, of all those that are opposed to the ineluctability of darkness and death.
What a grace when a Christian truly becomes a “christ –opher,[Christopher]” that is, a “Christ-bearer” in the world! — especially for those going through situations of mourning, of despair, of darkness and of hatred. And this is understood by many small particulars: by the light that a Christian keeps in his eyes, by the background of serenity which is not even affected in the most complicated days, by the desire to begin to love again even when one has experienced many disappointments. In the future, when the history of our days is written, what will be said of us? That we were capable of hope or that we put our light under the bushel? If we are faithful to our Baptism, we will spread the light of hope, Baptism is the beginning of hope, that hope of God and we will be able to transmit to the future generations reasons for living.[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
Dear Italian-speaking pilgrims, welcome! I am happy to receive the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the Angelic Sisters of Saint Paul and the Murialdine Sisters of Saint Joseph, gathered here on the occasion of their respective General Chapters. I greet the parish groups and Associations, with a special thought for the Aid Cooperative and the children assisted by it. May the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles enhance in each one the desire to adhere with renewed commitment to Jesus and His Gospel.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, which we will celebrate next Sunday, help all never to lose hope, but to abandon themselves confidently in the hands of Christ our Savior.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]