2. Dear brothers and sisters, before administering this sacrament to these new-born children, I would like to reflect with you on the word of God we have just heard. The Gospel according to Mark, like the other synoptics, recounts Jesus’ Baptism in the River Jordan. The liturgy of Epiphany recalls this event in a triptych that includes the adoration of the Magi from the East and the wedding at Cana. Each of these three moments in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is a particular revelation of his divine sonship. The Eastern Churches give particular emphasis to today’s feast, calling it in short, “Jordan”. They consider it a moment in the manifestation of Christ closely connected with Christmas. Indeed, more than his birth in Bethlehem, the Eastern liturgy highlights the revelation of Jesus as Son of God, which took place with extraordinary intensity precisely during his Baptism in the Jordan.
What John the Baptist was conferring on the banks of the Jordan was a baptism of repentance for conversion and the forgiveness of sins. But he announced: “After me comes one who is mightier than I.... I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7-8). He proclaimed this to a multitude of penitents who flocked to him confessing their sins, repenting and preparing to correct their lives.
The Baptism given by Jesus, which the Church, faithful to his command, does not cease to administer, is quite different. This Baptism frees man from original sin and forgives his sins, saves him from slavery to evil and is a sign of his rebirth in the Holy Spirit; it imparts to him a new life, which is participation in the life of God the Father, given to us by his Only-Begotten Son who became man, died and rose again.
3. As Jesus comes out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon him like a dove, the heavens open and the Father’s voice is heard from on high: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Thus the event of Christ’s Baptism is not only a revelation of his divine son-ship, but at the same time a revelation of the whole Blessed Trinity. The Father — the voice from on high — reveals in Jesus the Only-Begotten Son consubstantial with him, and all this comes about by virtue of the Holy Spirit who, in the form of a dove, descends on Christ, the Lord’s Anointed.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the Baptism administered by the Apostle Peter to the centurion Cornelius and his family. Thus Peter carries out the risen Christ’s command to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit is the first and basic sacrament of the Church, the sacrament of new life in Christ.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, in a few moments these children will also receive Baptism and become living members of the Church. They will first be anointed with the oil of catechumens, a sign of Christ’s gentle strength given to them to fight against evil. Then blessed water will be poured on them, a sign of their interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out by Jesus as he was dying on the Cross. They are then immediately given a second and more important anointing with “chrism”, to show that they are consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father’s Anointed. Then each child's father receives a candle to be lit from the paschal candle, a symbol of the light of faith which the parents and godparents must continue to safeguard and nourish with the life-giving grace of the Spirit.
Dear parents and godparents, let us entrust these little ones to the Virgin Mary’s motherly intercession. Let us ask her to make them, dressed in their white garments, a sign of their new dignity as children of God, true Christians and courageous witnesses to the Gospel throughout their lives.
...Baptism as “the basis of Christian living” (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 41). Those who receive this sacrament are baptized in the Spirit of God, to become members of Christ and, with him and with our brothers and sisters, to form “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). An immense gift! We should celebrate the day of our Baptism as we do our birthday! But how many of the baptized are fully aware of what they have received? We must give a new impetus to catechesis, to rediscover this gift which also means taking on a great responsibility. May the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, accompany us on this demanding journey of reinvigorating our faith.
- Saint Pope John Paul II
JOHN PAUL II
ANGELUS - FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
Sunday, 12 January 1997
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I had the joy of baptizing 19 new-born babies in the Sistine Chapel. I extend an affectionate greeting and embrace to each of these children, as well as to their parents and relatives.
Today’s feast stresses how Jesus, at the beginning of his public life, wanted to receive the “baptism of conversion” (Luke 3:3), administered by John in the Jordan. This act, by which he, though innocent, showed his solidarity with sinners, became a moment of revelation. In fact, as he came out of the water, “immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove” (Mark 1:10). By this singular experience, Jesus is accredited as the Messiah awaited for centuries.
2. In the Jordan the voice of the Father resounds: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). These words shed light on the mystery of Jesus Christ: he is not only a “man of God”, like the prophets and saints, but the Son, the Only-Begotten One (John 1:18).
As the eternal Son, Jesus is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit and lives eternally in the Trinitarian communion of the one God. In the Incarnation, the Spirit of God completely fills his humanity. At his Baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit rests upon him to initiate him into the messianic ministry and to inaugurate that great “hour” of grace which will be completed by his Death and Resurrection. Indeed, Jesus Christ is the inexhaustible source of God’s Spirit for every man and woman who is open to his offer of salvation.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, today’s feast sheds light on one of the spiritual priorities of our journey towards the Holy Year: the need to have an ever deeper awareness of Baptism as “the basis of Christian living” (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 41). Those who receive this sacrament are baptized in the Spirit of God, to become members of Christ and, with him and with our brothers and sisters, to form “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). An immense gift! We should celebrate the day of our Baptism as we do our birthday! But how many of the baptized are fully aware of what they have received? We must give a new impetus to catechesis, to rediscover this gift which also means taking on a great responsibility. May the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, accompany us on this demanding journey of reinvigorating our faith.
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
MASS AND SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
Sunday, 9 January 2000
1. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1: 11).
These words, recounted by the Evangelist Mark, bring us straight to the heart of today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the Christmas season. Today we commemorate the manifestation of the mystery of Trinitarian love, which occurred right at the beginning of the Messiah's public activity.
On the holy night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born among us in the poverty of a stable; on the day of Epiphany, the Magi acknowledged him as the long-awaited Messiah of the nations; today, all our attention is focused on his person and mission. The Father speaks to him directly: "You are my beloved Son", as the heavens are opened and the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove (cf. Mark 1: 10-10). The scene on the banks of the Jordan thus presents the solemn proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God. And so his saving mission begins publicly.
2. The Baptism that the Lord receives takes place in the context of John the Baptist's penitential preaching. The ritual act of being immersed in water, offered by the Precursor, was an outward sign of repentance for sins committed and of the desire for spiritual renewal.
All this refers to the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which I will shortly have the joy of administering to these children and which we received a long time ago. Baptism inserted us into God's own life, making us his adopted children in his only-begotten "beloved Son".
How can we not give thanks to the Lord, who today calls these 18 infants to become his children in Christ? We surround them with our prayer and our affection. They come from Italy, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Switzerland. With great joy we welcome them into the Christian community, which today really becomes their family. Together with them I am pleased to extend a most cordial greeting to their parents and godparents who are presenting these little ones at the altar. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of their lives and even more for the gift of their spiritual rebirth.
3. It is very significant that the sacrament of Baptism is being administered in this Sistine Chapel, where stupendous masterpieces of art remind us of the wonders of salvation history, from man's origins to the universal judgement. It is even more significant to contemplate these signs of God's action in our lives during the Jubilee Year, which is totally centred on the mystery of Christ, who was born, died and rose again for us.
I hope that these little ones will grow in the faith they are receiving today, so that they can soon take an active part in the Church's life.
I ask you, dear parents, who are participating with intense feeling in this important moment, to renew the promises of your baptismal vocation. In this way you will be better prepared to fulfil your task as the first teachers of faith for your children. These little ones must find in you, and in their godparents, support and guidance on the path of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Be examples for them of solid faith, of deep prayer and of active involvement in the Church's life.
May Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, accompany the first steps of these newly baptized children. May she always protect them, along with their parents and godparents. May she help each of them to grow in love for God and in the joy of serving the Gospel, and thus be able to give full meaning to their lives.
JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 9 January 2000
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Today's liturgical feast of the Baptism of the Lord closes the Christmas season, which we observed this year with exceptional fervour and participation. Indeed, the Great Jubilee began on the Holy Night with the opening of the Holy Door in St Peter's.
This Christmas season has offered us a new occasion to recall the "fact" that occurred 20 centuries ago and definitively changed the course of history: Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.
In recalling Jesus' birth, we celebrated the great mystery of Redemption, to which we pay particular attention throughout the course of the Jubilee. The Son of God became man so that man could be raised to the dignity of God's adoptive son.
2. Today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us of this intimate union with the divine life. As in past years, today I again had the joy of administering the sacrament of Baptism to a group of children in the Sistine Chapel. There were 18 all together: eight girls and 10 boys, from Italy, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Switzerland. In the context of the Jubilee Year, a time of grace, joy and renewal of life, this celebration of the sacrament of Baptism is a reminder for us all to return to the roots of our Christian vocation. All the good we accomplish with God's help really has its foundation in Baptism which, by imparting divine grace to us, makes us children of God and incorporates us into the community of believers.
3. Let us entrust these boys and girls who were baptized today, together with their families, their godparents and their Christian communities, to Blessed Mary, Mother of the Saviour. May the Holy Virgin accompany them with her motherly protection as they grow in faith and enable them to share every more deeply in the mystery of salvation which was initiated in them today.
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15 February 2015