Pope Benedict XVI marked the end of the Christmas celebration today with the feast of the Lord’s Baptism. Speaking to pilgrims who gathered beneath the windows of his study to pray the midday Angelus, he urged all to give thanks that the Son of God came down to earth to share our human condition. It is through his death that we have all be baptized into eternal life.
The Feast of the Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan is traditionally the day when the Holy Father administers the sacrament of Baptism to new born babies, welcoming them into the Christian community. It is a tradition that Pope Benedict described as one of his favorites.
Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI told the parents and godparents of thirteen babies gathered beneath the magnificent frescoes of the Sistine Chapel that the entire mystery of Christ in the world can be summarized with the word “baptism”, which in Greek means “immersion.”
In baptism, the Holy Father said that the tiny human beings receive a new life, a life of grace that renders them capable of entering into a personal relationship with the Creator, forever, for all eternity. Unfortunately man is capable of extinguishing this new life through our sin, reducing it to a situation that Sacred Scripture calls a “second death.”
Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the mystery of baptism: God wanted to save us by himself going to the depths of the abyss of death, so that all who have fallen can find the hand of God and grasping onto it, can rise up out of the shadows once again to see the light for which he was made. We all feel, we all perceive, deep within ourselves, that our existence is a desire that invokes a fullness, a salvation. This fullness of life is given in Baptism.
The Holy Father said, “The Son of God, who from all eternity dwells with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the fullness of life, is immersed in the reality of sinners, and renders us capable of participating in his own life, his incarnation, his birth among us, his growing as one of us, and arriving at adulthood, manifested his mission with his baptism by John the Baptist. His first public act, which we heard in today’s Gospel was to descend into the Jordan, amidst sinners and penitents, to receive a baptism of conversion.
The Holy Father explained that this was the very reason that only Son of God came into the world: he came to bring to all men the abundance of life, the eternal life, that redeems man and heals him interiorly, body and soul, restoring man to the original plan in which he was created.
To the parents, he said, “This is why Christian parents as you here today, bring your children as soon as possible to the baptismal font which communicates to them, invokes a fullness, a salvation that only God can give. And in this way, parents become collaborators of God in transmitting to their children not only physical life but also a spiritual life.
Turning to the parents, all of them Vatican employees drawn from the police corps, health service, telecommunications center, library and museums, the Holy Father reminded them of their central role in the transmission of the faith from generation to generation, he said “While you offer them all that is necessary for their health and growth, together with the godparents, you must also commit yourselves to developing in them faith, hope and charity, the three theological virtues which belong to the new life gifted them in the sacrament of Baptism”.
This, he concluded, “will be ensured by your presence, affection and care; but above all by prayer, by presenting them each and every day to God and entrusting them to Him throughout the seasons of their lives”.