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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2009

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,
The words that the Evangelist Mark recounts at the beginning of his Gospel: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (1: 11), introduce us into the heart of today's Feast of the Baptism of the Lord with which the Christmas Season ends. The cycle of the Christmas Solemnities leads us to meditate on the birth of Jesus, announced by the angels who were surrounded with the luminous splendour of God; the Christmas Season speaks to us of the star that guided the Magi of the East to the House in Bethlehem, and invites us to look to Heaven, which opens above the Jordan as God's voice resounds. These are all signs through which the Lord never tires of repeating: "Yes, I am here. I know you. I love you. There is a path that leads from me to you. And there is a path that rises from you to me". The Creator assumed the dimensions of a child in Jesus, of a human being like us, to make himself visible and tangible. At the same time, by making himself small, God caused the light of his greatness to shine. For precisely by lowering himself to the point of defenceless vulnerability of love, he shows what his true greatness is indeed, what it means to be God.

Christmas, and more generally the liturgical year, is exactly that drawing near to these divine signs, to recognize them as impressed into daily events, so that our hearts may be open to God's love. And if Christmas and Epiphany serve primarily to render us capable of seeing, of opening our eyes and hearts to the mystery of a God who comes to be with us, then we can say that the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus introduces us into the daily regularity of a personal relationship with him. Indeed, by immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united himself with us. Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge he built between himself and us, the road on which he makes himself accessible to us. It is the divine rainbow over our lives, the promise of God's great "yes", the door of hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates to us the path to take actively and joyfully in order to encounter him and feel loved by him.

Dear friends, I am truly glad that this year too, on this Feast day, I have been granted the opportunity to baptize these children. God's "favour" rests on them today. Ever since the Only-Begotten Son of the Father had himself baptized, the heavens are truly open and continue to open, and we may entrust every new life that begins into the hands of the One who is more powerful than the dark powers of evil. This effectively includes Baptism: we restore to God what came from him. The child is not the property of the parents but is entrusted to their responsibility by the Creator, freely and in a way that is ever new, in order that they may help him or her to be a free child of God. Only if the parents develop this awareness will they succeed in finding the proper balance between the claim that their children are at their disposal, as though they were a private possession, shaping them on the basis of their own ideas and desires, and the libertarian approach that is expressed in letting them grow in full autonomy, satisfying their every desire and aspiration, deeming this the right way to cultivate their personality. If, with this sacrament, the newly-baptized becomes an adoptive child of God, the object of God's infinite love that safeguards him and protects him from the dark forces of the evil one, it is necessary to teach the child to recognize God as Father and to be able to relate to him with a filial attitude. And therefore, when in accordance with the Christian tradition as we are doing today children are baptized and introduced into the light of God and of his teachings, no violence is done to them. Rather, they are given the riches of divine life in which is rooted the true freedom that belongs to the children of God, a freedom that must be educated and modelled as the years pass to render it capable of responsible personal decisions.

Dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, I greet you all with affection and join in your joy for these little ones who today are reborn into eternal life. May you be aware of the gift received and never cease to thank the Lord who, with today's Sacrament, introduces your children into a new family, larger and more stable, more open and more numerous than your own; I am referring to the family of believers, to the Church, to a family that has God as Father and in which all recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Today, therefore, you are entrusting your children to God's goodness, which is a force of light and love, and they, even amid life's difficulties, will never feel abandoned if they stay united with him. Therefore, be concerned with educating them in the faith, teaching them to pray and grow as Jesus did and with his help, "in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man" (Lk 2: 52).

Returning now to the Gospel passage, let us seek to better understand what is happening today. St Mark recounts that it was just when John the Baptist was preaching on the banks of the River Jordan, proclaiming the urgent need for conversion in view of the now imminent coming of the Messiah, that Jesus, who was among the crowds, presented himself to be baptized. John's baptism is indisputably a baptism of penance, very different from the Sacrament that Jesus was to institute. At that moment, however, the Redeemer's mission is already glimpsed because, when he comes out of the water, a voice comes from Heaven and the Holy Spirit descends upon him; the heavenly Father proclaims him as his beloved Son and publicly attests to his universal saving mission, which will be fully accomplished with his death on the Cross and his Resurrection. Only then, with the Paschal Sacrifice, would the forgiveness of sins be rendered universal and total. With Baptism we do not simply emerge from the waters of the Jordan to proclaim our commitment to conversion, but the redeeming Blood of Christ that purifies and saves us is poured out upon us. It is the Father's beloved Son, in whom he was pleased, who regains for us the dignity and joy of calling ourselves truly "children" of God..

In a little while we shall relive this mystery evoked by today's solemnity; the signs and symbols of the sacrament of Baptism will help us to understand what the Lord works in the hearts of these our little ones, making them "his" for ever, the chosen dwelling place of his Spirit and "living stones" for the construction of the spiritual temple which is the Church. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, the beloved Son of God, watch over them and their families and always accompany them, so that they may fully carry out the plan of salvation that is brought into their lives through Baptism. And may we, dear brothers and sisters, accompany them with our prayers. Let us pray for the parents, godfathers and godmothers, and for their relatives, so that they may help them grow in faith. Let us pray for all of us here present so that, by devoutly taking part in this celebration, we may renew the promises of our Baptism and give thanks to the Lord for his constant assistance. Amen!"

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

"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'" (Mk 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:

"Chers pèlerins de langue française, avec la célébration du Baptême du Seigneur, nous sommes invités à reconnaître en Jésus le Fils Bien-Aimé en qui le Père a mis tout son amour. Il nous convie à recevoir la Parole de Dieu, afin de vivre l’engagement pris à notre baptême. Nés de l’eau et de l’Esprit, nous sommes tous invités à annoncer avec assurance la Bonne Nouvelle de son amour et à en témoigner par notre vie entière. 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 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.

Gerne heiße ich heute, am Fest der Taufe des Herrn, die Pilger und Besucher aus dem deutschen Sprachraum willkommen. Christus, der unsere menschliche Natur angenommen hat, schenkt uns durch das Sakrament der Taufe die Gnade, daß unser Inneres nach seinem Bild neu geschaffen wird. Unsere Lebensaufgabe ist es, dieses Geschenk als Gottes geliebte Kinder zur Entfaltung zu bringen und durch das beständige Wirken des Heiligen Geistes in Fülle zu leben. Euch allen wünsche ich einen gesegneten Sonntag!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española que han participado en el rezo del Ángelus. En la Fiesta del Bautismo del Señor, invito a todos a reconocer en Cristo al Mesías de Dios, Salvador de la humanidad e imitar su entrega a la misión encomendada. Confío a María los buenos propósitos de avanzar con gozo en la vida cristiana, siguiendo fielmente la vocación a la santidad que hemos recibido en nuestro propio bautismo. Y a ella confío también a las familias que ya están de camino para celebrar esta semana la sexta Jornada Mundial de la Familias, en México. Unámonos a ellas con la oración, para que en cada hogar se refleje la luz y el amor de Dios. Feliz domingo.

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do Polaków. Chrzest Jezusa w Jordanie wprowadza nas w tajemnicę Bożej sprawiedliwości i miłosierdzia. Boży Syn umiłowany utożsamia się z grzesznikami, aby dzięki Jego dziełu odkupienia, w mocy Ducha Świętego doznali usprawiedliwienia. I my mamy w nim udział przez łaskę sakramentu chrztu. Dziś za nią dziękujemy. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare la rappresentanza dei farmacisti titolari di parafarmacia. A tutti auguro che la luce interiore, ricevuta nel tempo del Natale e dell’Epifania, rischiari il cammino quotidiano e infonda conforto nelle difficoltà. Buona domenica!"

BXVI - Sunday, 11 January 2009 - © Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana