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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Holy Mass in the Sistine Chapel
and the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism - Sunday, 13 January 2013
- in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
The joy that flowed from the celebration of Christmas finds its fulfillment today in the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. For us who are gathered together here there is a further reason for this joy. In the sacrament of Baptism that I will soon administer to these newborns there is in fact manifested the living and active presence of the Holy Spirit who, enriching the Church with new children, vivifies her and makes her grow and we cannot help but rejoice over this. I would like to address a special greeting to you, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers, who are witnessing to your faith today, asking for Baptism for these children, so that they might be begotten in the new life in Christ and become a part of the community of believers.

The Gospel account of the baptism of Jesus that we heard today in the reading from St Luke, displays the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to follow the Father’s plan, to be obedient to his will of love for man in all things, to the point of the sacrifice on the cross. Now an adult, Jesus initiates his public ministry, traveling to the Jordan River to receive a baptism of repentance and conversion from John. There occurs here something that might seem paradoxical in our eyes. Does Jesus need to repent and convert? Certainly not. And yet he who is without sin places himself among sinners to be baptized, to perform this gesture of repentance; the Holy One of God joins with those who recognize their need of forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion, that is, the grace to return to him with all their heart, to be completely his. Jesus wishes to place himself among sinners, making himself be in solidarity with them, expressing God’s nearness. Jesus shows himself to be in solidarity with us, with our effort to convert, to leave our egoism behind, to turn from our sins, to tell us that if we accept him in our lives he is able to lift us back up and lead us to the heights of God the Father. And this solidarity of Jesus is not, so to say, a simple exercise of the mind and will. Jesus has truly immersed himself in our human condition, he lived it through and through, except for sin, and is able to understand weakness and frailty. For this reason he has compassion, chooses to “suffer with” men, to make himself a penitent with us. The work of God that Jesus wishes to accomplish is this: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and to care for the sick, to take the sin of the world upon himself.

What happens in the moment that Jesus was himself baptized by John? With this act of humble love on the part of the Son of God the heavens open and the Holy Spirit is visibly manifest as a dove, while a voice from on high expresses the Father’s pleasure, who points to his only begotten Son, the Beloved. This is an authentic manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity, which witnesses to Jesus’ divinity, his being the promised Messiah, he whom God sent to free his people so that they might be saved (cf Isaiah 40:2). In this way the prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading is realized: the Lord God comes with power to destroy the works of sin and his arm exercises dominion to disarm the Evil One; but let us remember that this arm is the arm stretched out upon the cross and that Jesus’ power is the power of him who suffers for us: this is the power of God, different from the power of the world; in this way God comes to destroy sin. Jesus truly acts as the Good Shepherd who feeds the flock and gathers it together that it not be scattered (cf Isaiah 40:10-11), and he offers his life itself so that it may have life. It is through Jesus’ redemptive death that man is freed from the reign of sin and is reconciled with the Father; it is through his resurrection that man is saved from eternal death and is made victorious over the Evil One.

Dear brothers and sisters, what occurs in the Baptism that in a few moments I will administer to your children? It is this: they will be forever united in a profound way with Jesus, in the mystery of this power of his, that is in the mystery of his death, which is the font of life, to participate in his resurrection, to be reborn in a new life. This is the wonder that today is repeated also for your children: receiving Baptism they are reborn as children of God, participants in the filial relation of Jesus with the Father, able to turn toward God calling him “Abba, Father” with complete confidence. Upon your children too the heavens have opened, and God says: these are my children, children in whom I am pleased. Inserted in this relation and liberated from original sin, they become members of the one body that is the Church and are now able to live in the fullness of their vocation to sanctity so as to have the possibility of eternal life, obtained for us by Jesus’ resurrection.

Dear parents, in asking for Baptism for your children you manifest and witness to your faith, the joy of being Christians and of belonging to the Church. It is the joy that flows from the awareness of having received a great gift from God, precisely the faith, a gift that none of us was able to merit, but that was given to us gratuitously and to which we responded with our “yes.” It is the joy of recognizing ourselves as children of God, to find ourselves entrusted into his hands, to feel ourselves welcomed in the embrace of love, in the same way that a mother holds and embraces her child. This joy, which orients the journey of every Christian, is based on a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that orients the whole of human existence. He is in fact the meaning of our lives, he upon whom it is good to fix our gaze, to be enlightened by his truth and be able to live his fullness. The journey of faith that today begins for these children is thus founded on a certainty, the experience that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ and communicating friendship with him to others; only in this friendship is there really disclosed the extraordinary possibilities of the human condition and can we experience that which is beautiful and that which frees (cf Homily for the beginning of the pontificate, April 24, 2005). Those who have had this experience are not willing to give up their faith for anything in the world.

You, dear godfathers and godmothers, have the important task of supporting and helping the parents in the work of education, assisting them in the transmission of the truths of the faith and in witnessing to the values of the Gospel, in making these children grow in an ever deeper friendship with the Lord. Always know how to give them your good example through the exercise of the Christian virtues. It is not easy to manifest openly and without compromises what we believe, especially in the context in which we live, faced with a society that often considers those who live their faith in Jesus unfashionable and out of date. On account of the wave of this mentality, there may also be among Christians the danger of understanding this relationship with Jesus as limiting, as something that is harmful to one’s self-realization; “God is seen as the limit on our freedom, a limit that must be eliminated so that man might be completely himself” (“Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” 101 [Italian edition]). But this is not so! It is clear that such a vision does not understand anything of man’s relationship with God because precisely as one progresses in the journey of faith, we grasp how Jesus exercises the liberating love of God upon us, which draws us out of our egoism, from our being closed in on ourselves, to lead us to a full life in communion with God and others. “‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny” (Deus caritas est, 1).

The water with which these children will be signed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, will immerse them in that “font” of life that is God himself and makes them his true children. And the seed of the theological virtues, infused by God, faith, hope, and charity, a seed that today is placed in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, must always be cared for by the Word of God and the Sacraments, so that these Christian virtues might grow and reach maturity to make each of them a true witness to the Lord. As we invoke the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon these little ones, we entrust them to the protection of the Holy Virgin; may she guard them always with her maternal presence and accompany them in every moment of their life. Amen."

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

"Dear brothers and sisters, On this Sunday after Epiphany we conclude the liturgical season of Christmas: a time of light, the light of Christ that, as the new sun that appears on the horizon of humanity, disperses the darkness of evil and ignorance. We celebrate today the feast of the Baptism of Jesus: that Child, son of the Virgin, whom we contemplated in the mystery of his birth, we see today as an adult immersing himself in the waters of the Jordan River, and in this way sanctifying all water and the whole cosmos, as the Eastern tradition emphasizes. But why did Jesus, in whom there was no shadow of sin have himself baptized by John? Why did he wish to perform that gesture of repentance and conversion together with many others who wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah? That gesture, which marks the beginning of Christ’s public life, is situated in the same line as the Incarnation, of God’s descent from the highest heaven to the abyss of hell (“inferi”). The meaning of this movement of divine abasement is summed up in a single word: love, which is the very name of God. The apostle John writes: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). This is why the first act of Jesus was to receive the baptism of John, who, when he saw him coming, said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

The evangelist Luke writes that while Jesus, after receiving the baptism, “was in prayer, the heavens opened and there descended upon him the Holy Spirit in bodily form, as a dove, and there came a voice from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved: in you I am well-pleased” (3:21-22). This Jesus is the Son of God, who is totally immersed in the Father’s will of love. This Jesus is he who will die upon the cross and rise up by the power of the same Spirit that now comes to rest upon him and consecrates him. This Jesus is the new man who wishes to live as a son of God, that is, in love; he is the man who, in the face of the evil of the world, chooses the path of humility and responsibility, chooses not to save himself but to offer his life for truth and for justice. Being Christians means living in this way, but this way of life brings a rebirth: being reborn from above, from God, by Grace. This rebirth is the Baptism that Christ gave to the Church to regenerate men to new life. And ancient text attributed to St Hippolytus: “Whoever enters this bath of regeneration, renounces the devil and aligns himself with Christ, renounces the enemy and recognizes that Christ is God, puts off slavery and puts on the filial adoption” (Sermon for Epiphany, 10: PG, 10 862).

Following tradition, this morning I had the joy of baptizing a large group of children, who were born in the last 3 or 4 months. At this time I would like to extend my prayer and my benediction to all newborns; but above all I would like to invite everyone to recall their baptism, that spiritual rebirth that opened for us the path of eternal life. May every Christian, in this Year of Faith, rediscover the beauty of being reborn from above, from the love of God, and live as a child of God."

After the Angelus prayers

"Cari fratelli e sorelle!
Celebriamo oggi la Giornata Mondiale del Migrante e del Rifugiato. Nel Messaggio di quest’anno ho paragonato le migrazioni ad un «pellegrinaggio di fede e di speranza». Chi lascia la propria terra lo fa perché spera in un futuro migliore, ma lo fa anche perché si fida di Dio che guida i passi dell’uomo, come Abramo. E così i migranti sono portatori di fede e di speranza nel mondo. A ciascuno di loro rivolgo oggi il mio saluto, con una speciale preghiera e benedizione. Saluto in particolare le comunità cattoliche di migranti presenti a Roma, e le affido alla protezione di santa Cabrini e del beato Scalabrini.

Chers pèlerins francophones, la fête du Baptême de Jésus nous fait souvenir de notre baptême. Ce jour-là, nous sommes devenus enfants de Dieu, appelés à être dans le monde des témoins de l’amour de Dieu pour chaque personne. Cette mission est importante alors que nous célébrons la Journée internationale des migrants et des réfugiés. Que partout, ces personnes puissent être accueillies et aidées pour qu’elles aient chacune, ainsi que leur famille, une existence digne. Comme Jésus, soyons proches de ceux qui souffrent et n’ont pas de voix pour se faire entendre. Il bénira chaque geste de charité. Bon dimanche à tous !

I greet all English-speaking visitors taking part in this Angelus prayer. Today, in the Baptism of the Lord, we contemplate our share in the divine life through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. May we be renewed in our own Baptism and strengthened in witness to the Gospel and its promises! Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.

Ein herzliches Grüß Gott sage ich allen Pilgern und Besuchern deutscher Sprache. Heute morgen hatte ich die Freude, in der Sixtinischen Kapelle 20 Kinder zu taufen. Taufe bedeutet Neuschöpfung: Christus schenkt uns ein neues Menschsein. Er nimmt uns hinein in seine Beziehung zum Vater im Himmel. So sind wir in Christus wahrhaft Kinder Gottes und zugleich Brüder und Schwestern in der Gemeinschaft der Kirche. Tag für Tag sollen und wollen wir die Gnade der Taufe in uns wirksam werden lassen und unseren Mitmenschen bezeugen, daß Gott uns als seine Kinder liebt. Der Heilige Geist mache euch stark im Glauben und in der Liebe.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española que participan en esta oración mariana, especialmente a los provenientes de Badajoz. En este domingo del Bautismo de Nuestro Señor, con el que concluye el tiempo de Navidad, exhorto a todos a contemplar a Jesucristo, el Hijo amado de Dios, su predilecto. Siguiendo su ejemplo y con la ayuda de su gracia, seamos para los demás fuente de consuelo y esperanza, no teniendo otro deseo que ofrecer un testimonio sencillo y elocuente de generoso servicio, sin buscar jamás ser servidos. Así dejaremos a nuestro paso un luminoso rastro de bondad y misericordia. Muchas gracias.

Z serdecznym pozdrowieniem zwracam się do Polaków. Chrzest Jezusa w Jordanie objawił, że misja Syna Bożego rozpoczyna się i dokonuje w miłości Ojca i w mocy Ducha Świętego. Niech ta miłość i moc towarzyszy nam wszystkim, którzy przez sakrament chrztu mamy udział w Chrystusowym dziele zbawienia. Niech będzie światłem i wsparciem na drodze życia w sprawiedliwości i świętości. Z serca wam błogosławię.

Rivolgo infine il mio cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare alle famiglie e ai gruppi parrocchiali. A tutti auguro una buona domenica, una buona settimana. Buona domenica a voi tutti. Grazie!"