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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2003

Pope John Paul II's Homily at Holy Mass
+ administration of the Sacrament of Baptism in the Sistine Chapel
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near" (Is 55,6).

These words from the second part of the Book of Isaiah ring out on this Sunday that ends the Christmas season. They are an invitation to go more deeply into the meaning for us of today's Feast, the Baptism of the Lord.

In spirit let us return to the banks of the Jordan where John the Baptist administered a Baptism of repentance, exhorting to conversion. Coming up to the Precursor is Jesus, and with his presence he transformed that gesture of repentance into a solemn manifestation of his divinity. A voice suddenly comes from heaven:  "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased" (Mk 1,11) and, in the form of a dove, the Spirit descends upon Jesus.

In that extraordinary event, John saw realized what had been said about the Messiah born in Bethlehem, adored by the shepherds and the Magi. He was the very One foretold by the prophets, the beloved Son of the Father; we must seek him while he can be found and call upon him while he is at hand.

In Baptism every Christian personally meets him; he is inserted into the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection and receives a new life, which is the life of God. What a great gift and what a great responsibility!

2. The liturgy today invites us to draw water "with joy at the fountain of salvation" (Is 12,3); it exhorts us to relive our Baptism, giving thanks for the great gifts received.

With these sentiments, I prepare to administer the sacrament of Baptism to the newborn babies, as is now a tradition, in the stupendous Sistine Chapel, where the art of great artists has depicted essential moments of our faith. There are 22 infants, who come mainly from Italy, but also from Poland and Lebanon.

I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters who have wished to take part in this touching celebration. With special affection, I greet you, dear parents and godparents, called to be the first witnesses of the fundamental gift of the faith for these little ones. The Lord entrusts to you, as responsible guardians, the lives that are so precious in his eyes. Devote yourselves lovingly to them so that they may grow "in wisdom, age and grace"; help them to be faithful to their vocation.

In a little while, and in their name, you will renew the promise to fight against evil and to adhere fully to Christ. May your lives always be identified by this generous pledge!

3. You are likewise conscious that the Lord is asking you for a new and deeper collaboration:  that is, he is entrusting you with the daily duty of accompanying them on the path of holiness. Make every effort to be holy yourselves in order to guide your children towards that high goal of Christian living. Do not forget that this training in holiness "calls for a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 32).

May Mary, the Holy Mother of the Redeemer, who accepted God's plan without reservations, support you, nourishing your hope and desire to serve faithfully Christ and his Church. May our Lady help these little ones especially, so that they can fully realize the plan God has in store for each of them. May she help Christian families throughout the world to be authentic "schools of prayer" in which prayer together becomes more and more the heart and the source of every activity!"

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Angelus
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today, the season of Christmas and of the Epiphany comes to an end with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River. The Gospels agree in attesting that, when Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit rested upon him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the heavenly Father was heard coming from on high, saying, "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased" (Mk 1,11).

Not standing out among the crowd of penitents, Jesus asked John the Baptist to be baptized, leaving the Precursor bewildered. But it is this gesture that reveals the unique character of Jesus' Messianic activity: it consists in doing the will of the Father, becoming the "victim of expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4,10).

His humble solidarity with sinners will lead him to his death on the Cross.

2. Immersion into the death and resurrection of Christ radically frees the human being from sin and death, and realizes a new birth according to the Spirit, for a life that will never end. This is the Baptism that the Risen One entrusts to the Apostles when he sends them into the whole world (cf. Mt 28,19). This morning, according to custom, I had the joy of administering the same Baptism to some newborns.

The Baptism of infants, so dear to the Christian tradition, makes us understand with immediate force the true nature of salvation. It is a grace, namely, the free gift of the Lord.

Indeed, God always loves us first and, with the blood of his Son, has already paid the price of our redemption.

For this reason it is good to urge Christian parents to bring their children to the Baptismal fount so that they may receive, in virtue of the faith of the Church, the great gift of divine life. Then, their parents, by their example, prayer and teaching, should be the first teachers of the faith of their children, so that the seed of new life may reach its full maturity.

3. Turning now to the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us pray for the twenty-two infants who received Baptism this morning. Let us also pray for their parents, their godparents, and for every Christian.

May the Mother of the Lord help all the baptized to reject what is contrary to the Gospel and to remain ever faithful to the promises made at the Baptismal fount."

After the Angelus:

"Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, de modo particular a los grupos de las parroquias de la Sagrada Familia de Torrente y Pego, Nuestra Señora de Lluch de Alcira y de la Preciosísima Sangre de Valencia. Que la celebración de la fiesta del Bautismo del Señor renueve vuestros compromisos apostólicos. ¡Qué Dios os bendiga!

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. Szczesc Boze na Nowy Rok. Do siego roku!

Saluto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, augurando a tutti una buona domenica."

JPII - Sunday, 12 January 2003 - © Copyright 2003 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana