3. Accept, dear brothers and sisters, the invitation that the Church extends to you: be their "teachers in faith", so that the seed of new life will develop in them and reach full maturity. Help them by your word and especially by your example.
May they quickly learn from you to love Christ, to pray to him constantly, to imitate him by always answering his call. You have received in their name, in the symbol of the candle, the flame of faith: take care that it is constantly nourished, so that each of them, in their knowledge and love of Jesus, may always act according to the wisdom of the Gospel. In this way they will become true disciples of the Lord and joyous apostles of his Gospel.
I entrust each of these children and their families to the Virgin Mary. May Our Lady help them all to follow with fidelity the path begun with the sacrament of Baptism.
FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 13 January 2002
1. "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3,17).
How great is the mystery of salvation! Dear parents and godparents, the children you present are introduced into this mystery today. By receiving in the Church the sacrament of Baptism, they becomes sons and daughters of God, "sons in the Son". It is the mystery of the "second birth".
2. Dear parents, I address you with special consideration, since you have given these creatures life, collaborating with the work of God, the author of all life, and, particularly, each human life. You have given them birth and today you present them at the baptismal font so that they may receive a second birth from water and the Holy Spirit. Christ's grace will transform their life from mortal to immortal, freeing it from original sin. Give thanks to the Lord for the gift of their birth and for their spiritual rebirth today.
But what power enables these innocent and unknowing infants to make such a deep spiritual "transition"? It is faith, the faith of the Church, professed particularly by you, dear parents and godparents. It is precisely in this faith that your little ones are baptized. Christ does not bring about the miracle of regenerating man without human collaboration, and the first form of cooperation is faith, so that interiorly attracted by God, the creature freely entrusts himself into his hands.
Today these children receive Baptism on the basis of your faith, which I will shortly call you to profess. How much love, dear friends, and how much responsibility are found in the act you will perform in the name of your children!
3. Some day in the future, when they will be able to understand, with their personal freedom, they will have to make the spiritual journey that with God's grace will lead them to confirm in the sacrament of Confirmation, the gift they receive today.
But will they be able to be open to faith if they do not receive a supportive witness to it from the adults who surround them? These children need you first of all, dear parents; then they also need you, dear godparents, in order to learn to know the true God who is merciful love. It is up to you to introduce them to this knowledge, first and foremost, through the witness of your behaviour in the relationships you have with them and with others, relationships marked by attention, acceptance and forgiveness. They will understand that God is fidelity if they can first recognize his reflection, even if it is limited and faint, in your loving presence.
Great is the responsibility of parents to cooperate in the spiritual growth of their children! The blessed couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were well aware of this. I recently had the joy of raising them to the honour of the altars, and I ask you to get to know them and imitate them. If you find great the mission of being parents "according to the flesh", how much greater is that of collaborating in the divine fatherhood, offering your own contribution to shaping in these creatures the image of Jesus, the perfect Man.
4. Do not ever feel alone in this demanding mission! May you be comforted by confidence in the guardian angels, for God has entrusted to them his unique message of love for each one of your children. Then the whole Church, for you have the grace of belonging, is committed to helping you: in Heaven the saints are watching over them, especially, those whose names the children bear and who will be their "patrons". On earth there is the ecclesial community, and there it is possible to strengthen your faith and Christian life by the good food of prayer and the sacraments. You will not be able to give to your children what you have not been the first to receive and assimilate!
For all of them, there is our Mother according to the Spirit: the Blessed Virgin Mary. To her I entrust your babies, so that they may become true Christians. I also entrust you, dear parents and godparents, to the Virgin Mary so that you may always know how to pass on to these infants the love they need to grow and to believe. Indeed, life and faith go hand in hand! With God's help may this always be true in the life of every baptized person!
JOHN PAUL II
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Baptism of the Lord: becoming a constant gift to God
1. Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. According to the Evangelists, this event marks the beginning of his Messianic ministry. Christ's mission thus begun would be fulfilled in the Paschal Mystery in which, through his death and Resurrection, he was to take away the sin of the world (cf. John 1: 29).
After the Angelus:
I cordially greet the group of Priests from El Salvador who are participating in this Marian prayer. Dear brothers, may your visit to the tombs of the Apostles strengthen your commitment to giving your whole self to Christ and his Church.
I wish you all a good Sunday!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of Godís encouragements to all of us.
MASS IN THE SISTINE CHAPEL
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's celebration is always a cause of special joy for me. Indeed, the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is one of the most expressive moments of our faith, in which we can almost see the mystery of life through the signs of the liturgy. In the first place, there is human life. It is represented here in particular by these 13 children who are the fruit of your love, dear parents, to whom I address my cordial greeting, which I extend to the godparents and the other relatives and friends present. Then comes the mystery of divine life which God gives to these little ones today through rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit. God is life, as some of the pictures that embellish this Sistine Chapel marvelously evoke.
Yet it does not seem out of place if we immediately juxtapose the experience of life with the opposite experience, that is, the reality of death. Sooner or later everything that begins on earth comes to its end, like the meadow grass that springs up in the morning and by evening has wilted. In Baptism, however, the tiny human being receives a new life, the life of grace, which enables him or her to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator for ever, for the whole of eternity. Unfortunately, human beings are capable of extinguishing this new life with their sin, reducing themselves to being in a situation which Sacred Scripture describes as "second death". Whereas for other creatures who are not called to eternity, death means solely the end of existence on earth, in us sin creates an abyss in which we risk being engulfed for ever unless the Father who is in Heaven stretches out his hand to us. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the mystery of Baptism: God desired to save us by going to the bottom of this abyss himself so that every person, even those who have fallen so low that they can no longer perceive Heaven, may find God's hand to cling to and rise from the darkness to see once again the light for which he or she was made. We all feel, we all inwardly comprehend that our existence is a desire for life which invokes fullness and salvation. This fullness is given to us in Baptism.
We have just heard the account of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It was a different Baptism from that which these babies are about to receive but is deeply connected with it. Basically, the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term: "baptism", which in Greek means "immersion". The Son of God, who from eternity shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was "immersed" in our reality as sinners to make us share in his own life: he was incarnate, he was born like us, he grew up like us and, on reaching adulthood, manifested his mission which began precisely with the "baptism of conversion" administered by John the Baptist. Jesus' first public act, as we have just heard, was to go down into the Jordan, mingling among repentant sinners, in order to receive this baptism. John was naturally reluctant to baptize him, but because this was the Father's will, Jesus insisted (cf. Matthew 3: 13-15).
Why, therefore, did the Father desire this? Was it because he had sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world as the Lamb to take upon himself the sins of the world (cf. John 1: 29)? The Evangelist recounts that when Jesus emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, while the Father's voice from Heaven proclaimed him "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3: 17). From that very moment, therefore, Jesus was revealed as the One who came to baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit: he came to give men and women life in abundance (cf. John 10: 10), eternal life, which brings the human being back to life and heals him entirely, in body and in spirit, restoring him to the original plan for which he was created. The purpose of Christ's existence was precisely to give humanity God's life and his Spirit of love so that every person might be able to draw from this inexhaustible source of salvation. This is why St Paul wrote to the Romans that we were baptized into the death of Christ in order to have his same life as the Risen One (cf. Romans 6: 3-4). For this reason Christian parents, such as you today, bring their children to the baptismal font as soon as possible, knowing that life which they have communicated calls for a fullness, a salvation that God alone can give. And parents thus become collaborators of God, transmitting to their children not only physical but also spiritual life.
Dear parents, I thank the Lord with you for the gift of these children and I invoke his assistance so that he may help you to raise them and incorporate them into the spiritual Body of the Church. As you offer them what they need for their growth and salvation may you always be committed, helped by their godparents, to developing in them faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues proper to the new life given to them in the Sacrament of Baptism. You will guarantee this by your presence and your affection; you will guarantee it first of all and above all by prayer, presenting them daily to God and entrusting them to him in every season of their life. If they are to grow healthy and strong, these babies will of course need both material care and many other kinds of attention; yet, what will be most necessary to them, indeed indispensable, will be to know, love and serve God faithfully in order to have eternal life. Dear parents, may you be for them the first witnesses of an authentic faith in God!
Continue next page ...
19 January 2014