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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2011

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,
I am glad to offer a cordial welcome, especially to you, the parents and godparents of the 21 infants to whom, in a little while, I shall have the joy of administrating the sacrament of Baptism. Now a tradition, this year too the Rite is taking place during the Holy Eucharistic Celebration with which we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. It is the Feast which, on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, concludes the Christmas Season with the Lord’s manifestation at the River Jordan.

According to the account of the Evangelist Matthew (3:13-17), Jesus came from Galilee to the River Jordan to be baptized by John; indeed people were flocking from all over Palestine to hear the preaching of this great prophet and the proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God and to receive baptism, that is, to submit to that sign of penance which calls for conversion from sin. Although it was called “baptism” it did not have the sacramental value of the rite we are celebrating today; as you well know, it was actually with his death and resurrection that Jesus instituted the sacraments and caused the Church to be born. What John administered was a penitential act, a gesture of humility to God that invited a new beginning: by immersing themselves in the water, penitents recognized that they had sinned, begged God for purification from their sins and were asked to change wrong behaviour, dying in the water, as it were, and rising from it to new life.

For this reason, when John the Baptist saw Jesus who had come to be baptized queuing with sinners he was amazed; recognizing him as the Messiah, the Holy One of God, the One who is without sin, John expressed his consternation: he, the Baptist, would himself have liked to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus urged him not to put up any resistance, to agree to do this act, to do what is fitting “to fulfil all righteousness”. With these words Jesus showed that he had come into the world to do the will of the One who had sent him, to carry out all that the Father would ask of him. It was in order to obey the Father that he accepted to be made man. This act reveals, first of all, who Jesus is: he is the Son of God, true God as the Father; he is the One who “humbled himself” to make himself one of us, the One who was made man and who accepted to humble himself unto death on a cross. The Baptism of Jesus fits into this logic of humility and solidarity: it is the action of the One who wanted to make himself one of us in everything and who truly joined the line of sinners; he, who knew no sin, let himself be treated as a sinner, to take upon his shoulders the burden of the sin of all humanity, including our own sin. He is the “servant” of Yahweh of whom the Prophet Isaiah spoke in the first reading. His humility is dictated by the desire to establish full communion with humanity, by the desire to bring about true solidarity with man and with his human condition. Jesus’ action anticipates the Cross, his acceptance of death for man’s sins. This act of abasement, by which Jesus wanted to comply totally with the loving plan of the Father and to conform himself with us, expresses the full harmony of will and intentions that exists between the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. For this act of love, the Spirit of God revealed himself and descended to alight upon Jesus as a dove, and at that moment the love which unites Jesus to the Father was witnessed to all who were present at the Baptism by a voice from Heaven that everyone heard. The Father reveals openly to human beings, to us, the profound communion that binds him to the Son: the voice that resounds from on high testifies that Jesus is obedient to the Father in all things and that this obedience is an expression of the love that unites them to each other. Therefore the Father delights in Jesus, for he recognizes in the Son’s behaviour the wish to obey his will in all things: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). And these words of the Father also allude, in advance, to the victory of the Resurrection and tell us how we must live in order to please the Father, by behaving like Jesus.

Dear parents, the Baptism, that you are asking for your children today, inserts them into this exchange of reciprocal love that is in God between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; through this act that I am about to carry out, God’s love is poured out upon them, showering them with his gifts. Your children, cleansed by the water, are inserted into the very life of Jesus who died on the Cross to free us from sin and in rising, conquered death. Therefore, spiritually immersed in his death and resurrection they are set free from original sin and the life of grace is born within them, which is the very life of the Risen Jesus. He “gave himself for us”, St Paul says, “to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (Tit 2:14). Dear friends, in giving us faith, the Lord has given us what is most precious in life, that is, the truest and most beautiful reason for living: it is through grace that we have believed in God, that we have known his love with which he wants to save us and to deliver us from evil. Faith is the great gift with which he also gives us eternal life, true life. Now, dear parents and godparents, you are asking the Church to receive these children within her, to give them Baptism; and you are making this request by virtue of the gift of faith that you yourselves, in turn, have received. Together with the Prophet Isaiah every Christian can say: “The Lord… formed me from the womb to be his servant”; thus, dear parents, your children are a precious gift of the Lord, who has kept their hearts for himself in order to fill them with his love. Today, through the sacrament of Baptism, he consecrates them and calls them to follow Jesus, through the realization of their personal vocation in accordance with that particular plan of love that the Father has in mind for each one of them; the destination of this earthly pilgrimage will be full communion with him in eternal happiness.

In receiving Baptism these children obtain as a gift an indelible spiritual seal, the “character” that inwardly marks their belonging to the Lord for ever and makes them living members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. While they become part of the People of God, today a journey begins for these children which must be a journey of holiness and of conformation to Jesus, a reality that is placed within them like the seed of a splendid tree whose growth must be nurtured. Therefore, understanding the greatness of this gift, from the earliest centuries care has been taken to give Baptism to newborn infants. Of course, later there will be the need for a free and conscious adherence to this life of faith and love. For this reason, after Baptism they must be educated in the faith, instructed in accordance with the wisdom of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church so that this seed of faith that they are receiving today may grow within them and that they may attain full Christian maturity. The Church, which welcomes them among her children must take charge of them, together with their parents and godparents, to accompany them on this journey of growth. Collaboration between the Christian community and the family is especially necessary in the contemporary social context in which the family institution is threatened on many sides and finds itself having to face numerous difficulties in its role of raising children in the faith. The lack of stable cultural references and the rapid transformation to which society is constantly subjected, truly make the commitment to bring them up arduous. Parishes must therefore do their utmost increasingly to sustain families, small domestic churches, in their task of passing on the faith.

Dear parents, together with you I thank the Lord for the gift of the Baptism of your little sons and daughters; in raising our prayers for them, let us invoke in abundance the gift of the Holy Spirit, who today consecrates them in the image of Christ the Priest, King and Prophet. As I entrust them to the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us ask for life and health for them, so that they may grow and mature in the faith and with their lives bear fruits of holiness and of love. Amen!"

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

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church is celebrating the Baptism of the Lord, the Feast which concludes the liturgical Season of Christmas. This mystery of the life of Christ visibly demonstrates that his coming in the flesh is a sublime act of love by the Three Divine Persons. We can say that from this solemn event the creative, redemptive and sanctifying action of the Most Holy Trinity will be increasingly evident in the public ministry of Jesus, in his teaching, his miracles, and in his Passion, death and Resurrection. We read, in fact, in the Gospel according to St Matthew that “when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold the heavens were opened [for him] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ ” (Mt 3: 16-17). The Holy Spirit “dwells” in the Son and testifies to his divinity, while the voice of the Father, coming from the heavens, expresses the communion of love. “The conclusion of the baptismal scene tells us that Jesus has received this true ‘anointing’, that he is the awaited Anointed One [the Christ]” (Jesus of Nazareth, New York 2007, pp. 25-26), which confirms Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (Is 42:1). He is truly the Messiah, the Son of the Most High who, emerging from the waters of the Jordan, establishes the regeneration in the Spirit and opens, to those who desire it, the possibility of becoming sons of God. Not by chance, in fact, does every baptized person acquire the character of son, based on the Christian name, an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit gives birth to man “anew” from the womb of the Church. Bl. Antonio Rosmini affirms that “the baptized undergoes a secret but very powerful operation, through which he is raised to the supernatural order, is placed in communication with God” (The Ruling Principle of Method Applied to Education, Turin 1857, n. 331). All this was fulfilled again at the celebration of the Eucharist this morning in the Sistine Chapel where I conferred the sacrament of Baptism on 21 newborn babies.

Dear friends, Baptism is the beginning of the spiritual life which finds its fullness in the Church. At the favourable moment of the sacrament, while the ecclesial community is praying and entrusting to God a new son or daughter, parents and godparents commit themselves to welcoming the newly baptized, sustaining them in Christian formation and education. This is a great responsibility which comes from a great gift! Therefore, I desire to encourage all the faithful to rediscover the beauty of being baptized and of belonging to the large family of God, and to give a joyful witness of their faith so that this faith may produce fruits of good and harmony.

Let us ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, to whom we entrust the parents who are preparing for their children’s Baptism, as well as the catechists. The entire community participates in the joy of rebirth in water and in the Holy Spirit!

Dopo l'Angelus:

"Nel contesto della preghiera mariana, desidero riservare un particolare ricordo alla popolazione di Haiti, ad un anno dal terribile terremoto, a cui purtroppo ha fatto seguito anche una grave epidemia di colera. Il Cardinale Robert Sarah, Presidente del Pontificio Consiglio Cor Unum, si reca oggi nell’Isola caraibica, per esprimere la mia costante vicinanza e quella di tutta la Chiesa.

Saluto il gruppo di Parlamentari italiani, qui presenti, e li ringrazio per il loro impegno, condiviso con altri colleghi, in favore della libertà religiosa. Con loro saluto anche i fedeli copti qui presenti a cui rinnovo la mia vicinanza.

Je vous salue cordialement, chers pèlerins francophones! Le Baptême du Seigneur que nous célébrons aujourd’hui clôt le cycle de Noël et nous introduit dans le temps ordinaire. Nous revivons notre propre naissance en Jésus-Christ qui fait de nous ses frères, et nous comble de l’amour de son Père. Ouvrons nos cœurs au souffle de l’Esprit Saint pour rester fidèles à notre vocation de fils de Dieu. Que la Vierge Marie intercède pour nous! Bon dimanche à tous!

I am pleased to welcome all the visitors and pilgrims present for this Angelus prayer. Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord and contemplates once more the revelation of God who is close to humanity, who visits his people in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to set them free from the tyranny of sin and death. May we open the doors of our hearts to Christ and welcome him into the world of today. God’s abundant blessings be upon all of you!

Ein herzliches „Grüß Gott“ sage ich den Pilgern und Besuchern aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Die Kirche feiert heute das Fest der Taufe Jesu. Am Jordan geht der Himmel auf über dem Herrn, der sich verdemütigt hat, und die Stimme von oben sagt: „Dieser ist mein Sohn, der mir gefällt“ (vgl. Mt 3,17). Sie sagt uns damit auch, wie wir sein müssen, damit wir Gottes Gefallen haben. Durch das Sakrament der Taufe sind wir gleichsam mit Jesus hinuntergestiegen in den Jordan. Durch die Taufe steht diese Stimme der göttlichen Liebe auch über uns. So gehören wir zur Gemeinschaft Jesu Christi, zu seinem Leib, der Kirche; wir tragen seine Gnade und sein Leben in uns und damit auch den Auftrag, dafür Zeugnis abzulegen. Danken wir dem Herrn für das Geschenk des Glaubens, des Mitseins mit ihm, und bekennen wir Christus als den Bruder und Erlöser der Menschen. Gott segne euch alle!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española. En este domingo, que sigue a la Fiesta de la Epifanía, celebramos el Bautismo del Señor, concluyendo así el tiempo litúrgico de la Navidad. El Padre manifiesta en el Jordán a Jesús, como su Hijo amado, ungido por el Espíritu, revelando también así el misterio del nuevo bautismo por el que llegamos a ser en verdad hijos suyos. Que la intercesión de la Santísima Virgen María os ayude a ser imagen de aquel que hemos conocido semejante a nosotros en la carne y renueve en todos la vocación a la santidad a la que se está llamado por el bautismo. Feliz domingo.

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich Polaków. Liturgia Niedzieli Chrztu Pańskiego wiedzie nas nad Jordan, gdzie Jezus, Syn Boży przyjmuje chrzest pokuty. W ten sposób okazuje swoją solidarność z ludźmi potrzebującymi nawrócenia. Przez sakrament Chrztu wyzwala nas z grzechów, czyni każdego nowym, Bożym człowiekiem. Prośmy Go o wierność przyrzeczeniom chrzcielnym i odważne wyznawanie wiary. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Saluto i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare il Coro della città di Ala, presso Trento, con una rappresentanza della comunità parrocchiale e civile. A tutti auguro una buona domenica. Grazie a tutti voi. Buona domenica!"

BXVI - 9 January 2011 - © Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana