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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2008

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

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's celebration is always a cause of special joy for me. Indeed, the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is one of the most expressive moments of our faith, in which we can almost see the mystery of life through the signs of the liturgy. In the first place, there is human life. It is represented here in particular by these 13 children who are the fruit of your love, dear parents, to whom I address my cordial greeting, which I extend to the godparents and the other relatives and friends present. Then comes the mystery of divine life which God gives to these little ones today through rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit. God is life, as some of the pictures that embellish this Sistine Chapel marvellously evoke.

Yet it does not seem out of place if we immediately juxtapose the experience of life with the opposite experience, that is, the reality of death. Sooner or later everything that begins on earth comes to its end, like the meadow grass that springs up in the morning and by evening has wilted. In Baptism, however, the tiny human being receives a new life, the life of grace, which enables him or her to enter into a personal relationship with the Creator for ever, for the whole of eternity. Unfortunately, human beings are capable of extinguishing this new life with their sin, reducing themselves to being in a situation which Sacred Scripture describes as "second death". Whereas for other creatures who are not called to eternity, death means solely the end of existence on earth, in us sin creates an abyss in which we risk being engulfed for ever unless the Father who is in Heaven stretches out his hand to us. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the mystery of Baptism: God desired to save us by going to the bottom of this abyss himself so that every person, even those who have fallen so low that they can no longer perceive Heaven, may find God's hand to cling to and rise from the darkness to see once again the light for which he or she was made. We all feel, we all inwardly comprehend that our existence is a desire for life which invokes fullness and salvation. This fullness is given to us in Baptism.

We have just heard the account of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It was a different baptism from that which these babies are about to receive but is deeply connected with it. Basically, the whole mystery of Christ in the world can be summed up in this term: "baptism", which in Greek means "immersion". The Son of God, who from eternity shares the fullness of life with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was "immersed" in our reality as sinners to make us share in his own life: he was incarnate, he was born like us, he grew up like us and, on reaching adulthood, manifested his mission which began precisely with the "baptism of conversion" administered by John the Baptist. Jesus' first public act, as we have just heard, was to go down into the Jordan, mingling among repentant sinners, in order to receive this baptism. John was naturally reluctant to baptize him, but because this was the Father's will, Jesus insisted.

Why, therefore, did the Father desire this? Was it because he had sent his Only-Begotten Son into the world as the Lamb to take upon himself the sins of the world? The Evangelist recounts that when Jesus emerged from the waters, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove, while the Father's voice from Heaven proclaimed him "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3: 17). From that very moment, therefore, Jesus was revealed as the One who came to baptize humanity in the Holy Spirit: he came to give men life in abundance, eternal life, which brings the human being back to life and heals him entirely, in body and in spirit, restoring him to the original plan for which he was created. The purpose of Christ's existence was precisely to give humanity God's life and his Spirit of love so that every person might be able to draw from this inexhaustible source of salvation. This is why St Paul wrote to the Romans that we were baptized into the death of Christ in order to have his same life as the Risen One. For this reason Christian parents, such as you today, bring their children to the baptismal font as soon as possible, knowing that life which they have communicated calls for a fullness, a salvation that God alone can give. And parents thus become collaborators of God, transmitting to their children not only physical but also spiritual life.

Dear parents, I thank the Lord with you for the gift of these children and I invoke his assistance so that he may help you to raise them and incorporate them into the spiritual Body of the Church. As you offer them what they need for their growth and salvation may you always be committed, helped by their godparents, to developing in them faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues proper to the new life given to them in the Sacrament of Baptism. You will guarantee this by your presence and your affection; you will guarantee it first of all and above all by prayer, presenting them daily to God and entrusting them to him in every season of their life. If they are to grow healthy and strong, these babies will of course need both material care and many other kinds of attention; yet, what will be most necessary to them, indeed indispensable, will be to know, love and serve God faithfully in order to have eternal life. Dear parents, may you be for them the first witnesses of an authentic faith in God!

In the Rite of Baptism there is an eloquent sign that expresses precisely the transmission of faith. It is the presentation to each of those being baptized of a candle lit from the flame of the Easter candle: it is the light of the Risen Christ, which you will endeavour to pass on to your children. Thus, from one generation to the next we Christians transmit Christ's light to one another in such a way that when he returns he may find us with this flame burning in our hands. During the Rite I shall say to you: "Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly". Dear brothers and sisters, always feed the flame of the faith by listening to and meditating on the Word of God and assiduous communion with Jesus in the Eucharist. May you be assisted in this marvellous if far from easy role by the holy protectors after whom these 13 children will be named. Above all, may these saints help those being baptized to reciprocate your loving care as Christian parents. May the Virgin Mary in particular accompany both them and you, dear parents, now and for ever. Amen!"

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With today's Feast of Jesus' Baptism the liturgical Season of Christmas concludes. The Child, who the Magi from the East came to adore at Bethlehem offering their symbolic gifts, we now find an adult, at the time when he is baptized in the Jordan River by the great Prophet John (cf. Mt 3: 13). The Gospel notes that after Jesus had received baptism and left the water, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove (cf. Mt 3: 16). Then a voice was heard from heaven that said: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3: 17). This was his first public manifestation after approximately 30 years of hidden life at Nazareth. Besides the Baptist, eyewitnesses of the singular event were the Baptist's disciples, some of whom then became Christ's followers (cf. Jn 1: 35-40). It is both a christophany and a theophany: first of all, Jesus manifests himself as the Christ, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means "anointed". He was not anointed with oil as were Israel's kings and high priests, but rather with the Holy Spirit. At the same time, together with the Son of God appeared signs of the Holy Spirit and the heavenly Father.

What is the meaning of this act that Jesus wishes to fulfil - overcoming the Baptist's resistance - in order to obey the Father's will (cf. Mt 3: 14-15)? The profound sense emerges only at the end of Christ's earthly existence, in his death and Resurrection. Being baptized by John together with sinners, Jesus began to take upon himself the weight of all of humanity's sin, like the Lamb of God who "takes away" the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1: 29): an act which he brought to fulfilment on the Cross when he also received his "baptism" (cf. Lk 12: 50). In fact, by dying he is "immersed" in the Father's love and the Holy Spirit comes forth, so that those who believe in him could be reborn by that inexhaustible font of new and eternal life. Christ's entire mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit, to free us from the slavery of death and "to open heaven to us", that is, access to the true and full life that will be "a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy" (Spe Salvi, n. 12).

This is what happened for the 13 children to whom I administered the Sacrament of Baptism this morning in the Sistine Chapel. We invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy on them and their relatives. And we pray for all Christians, so that they may understand the gift of Baptism ever more and apply themselves to live it coherently, witnessing to the love of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

After the Angelus:

"Si celebra oggi la Giornata Mondiale del Migrante e del Rifugiato, che quest'anno pone al centro dell'attenzione i giovani migranti. Numerosi sono infatti i giovani che vari motivi spingono a vivere lontani dalle loro famiglie e dai loro Paesi. Particolarmente a rischio sono le ragazze e i minori. Alcuni bambini e adolescenti sono nati e cresciuti in "campi-profughi": anch'essi hanno diritto ad un futuro! Esprimo il mio apprezzamento per quanti si impegnano in favore dei giovani migranti, delle loro famiglie e per la loro integrazione lavorativa e scolastica; invito le comunità ecclesiali ad accogliere con simpatia giovani e giovanissimi con i loro genitori, cercando di comprenderne le storie e di favorirne l'inserimento. Cari giovani migranti! Impegnatevi a costruire insieme ai vostri coetanei una società più giusta e fraterna, adempiendo i vostri doveri, rispettando le leggi e non lasciandovi mai trasportare dalla violenza. Vi affido tutti a Maria, Madre dell'intera umanità.

Je vous salue, chers pèlerins francophones, venus pour la prière de l’Angélus. Aujourd’hui, avec la fête du Baptême du Seigneur s’achève le temps de Noël. Fortifiés par les célébrations que nous venons de vivre, puissiez-vous développer chaque jour les grâces de votre Baptême, pour annoncer au monde la Bonne Nouvelle du Salut. Je vous invite tout spécialement à porter une attention renouvelée aux jeunes, qui attendent que les adultes leur transmettent l’Évangile qui seul donne le sens véritable à leur existence. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

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 upon himself the weight of our sins; then he rises from the water, as 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.

Von Herzen grüße ich die deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher hier auf dem Petersplatz. In der Liturgie gedenken wir heute der Taufe Christi, die nach Auskunft der Evangelien den Beginn des öffentlichen Wirkens Jesu darstellt. Der Herr ruft auch uns auf, Zeugen der Wahrheit und der Liebe Gottes in unserem Lebensbereich zu sein. Der Heilige Geist stärke euch dabei und geleite euch durch dieses begonnene Jahr!

Dirijo mi cordial saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana, especialmente a los fieles provenientes de las diócesis de Asidonia-Jerez y Cádiz y Ceuta. Con este Domingo se termina el tiempo litúrgico de Navidad y Epifanía. En la fiesta del Bautismo del Señor que hoy se celebra, la Iglesia invita a sus hijos, renacidos del agua y del Espíritu Santo, a que perseveren en la escucha de la Palabra de Cristo, el Unigénito de Dios Padre, en el fiel cumplimiento de la voluntad divina y en el testimonio de la caridad. ¡Muchas gracias!

Serdecznie pozdrawiam Polaków. W niedzielę chrztu Pańskiego wracamy myślą do dnia, w którym zostaliśmy „obmyci, uświęceni i usprawiedliwieni w imię Pana naszego Jezusa Chrystusa i przez Ducha Boga naszego" (1 Kor 6, 11). Dziękujemy Bogu za łaskę chrztu świętego, za dar odkupienia i za nadzieję na życie wieczne w Jego chwale. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare i responsabili diocesani della Società di San Vincenzo de' Paoli, augurando ogni bene per la loro associazione. Saluto inoltre i cosiddetti "Consigli Comunali dei Ragazzi" della Provincia di Catania, che apprezzo per l'impegno di educazione civica, i cresimandi della parrocchia di Santa Maddalena di Canossa in Roma e la Lega Italiana per la Lotta contro i Tumori, che oggi offre speciale assistenza agli immigrati ed ai rifugiati in Italia. A tutti auguro una buona domenica."

BXVI - Sunday, 13 January 2008 - © Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana