As the Church celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI personally baptized ten newborn infants--a first for his pontificate and a continuation of a custom begun by the late John Paul II.
In a spontaneous homily delivered in the Sistine Chapel following the baptisms, the Pope said that in receiving the Sacrament, each of the infants "are introduced to a company of friends that will never abandon them, in life or in death.”
“This company of friends”, he said, “is the family of God which carries within itself the promise of eternity."
His comments were addressed to the parents and godparents of the newly-baptized children - five boys and five girls, all of whom were Italian.
Benedict also stressed that "remaining true to Baptism in the context of the modern world means saying 'yes' to Christ and to life, and 'no' to evil and death.”
“We can say”, he continued, “that also in our own time it is necessary to say 'no' to a culture largely dominated by death; an anti-culture which shows itself, for example, in drugs, in escape from reality, in illusion, and in the false happiness that is expressed in lies, fraud, injustice, and contempt for others, for solidarity, and for responsibility towards the poor and the suffering."
This culture of death, the Pope added, "is expressed in a sexuality which becomes pure enjoyment without responsibility, which makes man a mere object, no longer a person but a commodity."
"To this seeming promise of happiness,” he stressed, “to this apparent life which in reality is no more than an instrument of death, to this anti-culture, we say 'no' in order to cultivate the culture of life. Baptism today is a great 'yes' to life, a 'yes' to Christ, a 'yes' to the One Who conquered death."
The Pope said that this 'yes' to the culture of life is best expressed in the Ten Commandments.
He said that they "are not prohibitions but a vision of life", and added moreover, that they are a "yes" to God Who gives meaning to life.
Mapping out their meaning, Benedict pointed out that a 'Yes' to the family, is contained in the fourth commandment; “'yes' to life, the fifth commandment; 'yes' to responsible love, the sixth commandment; 'yes' to solidarity, social responsibility and justice, the seventh commandment; 'yes' to truth, the eighth commandment; 'yes' to respect for others and for what belongs to them, ninth and tenth commandments.”
“This”, he said, “is the philosophy and the culture of life that take concrete and practical form in communion with Christ."