SOLEMNITY OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Sunday that follows the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are celebrating the Baptism of the Lord. This was the first act of his public life, recounted in all four Gospels. Having reached the age of about 30, Jesus left Nazareth, went to the River Jordan and, in the midst of a great crowd of people, had himself baptized by John. Mark the Evangelist writes: "And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came down from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased'" (Mark 1: 10-11). These words "You are my beloved Son" reveal what eternal life is: it is the filial relationship with God, just as Jesus lived it and as he revealed and gave it to us.
This morning, in keeping with tradition, I have administered the Sacrament of Baptism to 13 newborn babies in the Sistine Chapel. The celebrant usually questions the parents and godparents: "What do you ask of God's Church for your children?". At their response, "Baptism", he replies, "And what does Baptism grant us?". "Eternal life," they answer. And this is the marvellous reality: a human person, through Baptism, is integrated into Jesus' unique and singular relationship with the Father so that the words resonating from heaven upon the Only-Begotten Son may become true for every man and every woman who is reborn by water and by the Holy Spirit: you are my son, my beloved.
Dear friends, how great is the gift of Baptism! If we were to take this fully into account our lives would become a continual "thank you". What a joy for Christian parents, who have seen a new creature come into being from their love, to carry the baby to the baptismal font and see him or her reborn from the womb of the Church, for a life without end! It is a gift, a joy, but also a responsibility! Parents, in fact, together with godparents, must educate their children in accordance with the Gospel. This makes me think of the theme of the Sixth World Meeting of Families which will be taking place in Mexico City in the next few days: "The family, teacher of human and Christian values". This great meeting of families, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, will be held in three stages: first, the Theological-Pastoral Congress, in which the theme will be deeply analyzed, also through an exchange of significant experiences. There will then be a moment for celebration and witness, which will bring out the beauty of a gathering of families from every part of the world, united by the same faith and by the same commitment. And finally, the solemn Eucharistic celebration as thanksgiving to the Lord for the gifts of marriage, the family and life. I have appointed Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, to represent me but I myself shall be following and taking an active part in the extraordinary event, accompanying it with prayer and intervening by video conference. From this moment, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to implore an abundance of divine graces upon this important World Meeting of Families. Let us do so by invoking the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family.
After the Angelus:
To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend affectionate greetings. On this feast of the Lord's Baptism, Jesus descends into the waters of the Jordan, taking on himself the weight of our sins. When he rises from the water, the Spirit comes down upon him and the Father's voice declares: "This is my beloved Son". Let us rejoice that the Son of God came to share our human condition, so that we might rise with him to everlasting life. Upon all who are here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.
FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is always a joy to celebrate this Holy Mass with the baptism of children on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I greet you all with affection, dear parents, godparents and all of you, relatives and friends! You have come here — you said so aloud — so that your new-born babies may receive the gift of God’s grace, the seed of eternal life. You, parents, have desired this. You thought of Baptism even before your child was born. Your duty as Christian parents made you think immediately of the sacrament that marks entry into divine life and into the community of the Church. We can say that this was your first educational decision as witnesses of the faith to your children: it is a fundamental decision!
The parents’ task, helped by the godfather and godmother, is to raise their son or daughter. Raising children is very demanding and at times taxes our human capability, which is always limited. However, educating becomes a marvellous mission if it is carried out in collaboration with God who is the first and true educator of every human being.
In the First Reading, we heard from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God addresses his people precisely as a teacher. He puts the Israelites on their guard against the danger of quenching their thirst and appeasing their hunger at the wrong sources: “Why”, he says, “do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). God wants to give us good things to drink and to eat, things that do us good; whereas at times we use our resources mistakenly, we use them for things that are useless, indeed, even harmful. Above all, God wants to give us himself and his Word. He knows that in distancing ourselves from him we will soon run into difficulty — like the Prodigal Son of the parable — and, especially, that we will lose our human dignity. And for this reason he assures us that he is infinite mercy, that his thoughts and ways are unlike ours — fortunately! — and that we can always return to him, to the Father’s house. Thereafter he assures us that if we receive his Word it will bear good fruits in our life, like the rain that waters the earth (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11).
We responded to these words which the Lord has addressed to us through the Prophet Isaiah with the refrain of the Psalm: We will “draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation”. As adults, we have striven to draw from the good springs for our own good and for the good of those entrusted to our responsibility, and you in particular, dear parents and godparents, for the good of these children.
And what are “the springs of salvation”? They are the Word of God and the sacraments. Adults are the first who should nourish themselves at these sources, so as to be able to guide those who are younger in their development. Parents must give much, but in order to give they need in turn to receive, otherwise they are drained, they dry up. Parents are not the spring, just as we priests are not the spring. Rather, we are like channels through which the life-giving sap of God’s love must flow. If we cut ourselves off from his spring, we ourselves are the first to feel the negative effects and are no longer able to educate others. For this reason we have committed ourselves by saying: We will “draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation”.
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15 February 2015