Sunday, 9 January, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Holy Father
celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel and administered the sacrament of Baptism
to 18 infants from Italy, Brazil, Spain, the United States and Switzerland. The
Pope asked the faithful to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of these
young lives and even more for the gift of their spiritual birth, as he urged
their parents and godparents to be examples "of solid faith, of deep prayer
and of active involvement in the Church's life". Here is a translation of
his homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased"
These words, recounted by the Evangelist Mark, bring us straight to the heart
of today's feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the Christmas season.
Today we commemorate the manifestation of the mystery of Trinitarian love, which
occurred right at the beginning of the Messiah's public activity.
On the holy night in Bethlehem, Jesus was born among us in the poverty of a
stable; on the day of Epiphany, the Magi acknowledged him as the long-awaited
Messiah of the nations; today, all our attention is focused on his person and
mission. The Father speaks to him directly: "You are my beloved Son",
as the heavens are opened and the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove
(cf. Mk 1:10-10). The scene on the banks of the Jordan thus presents the solemn
proclamation of Jesus as the Son of God. And so his saving mission begins
2. The Baptism that the Lord receives takes place in the context of John the
Baptist's penitential preaching. The ritual act of being immersed in
water, offered by the Precursor, was an outward sign of repentance for sins
committed and of the desire for spiritual renewal.
All this refers to the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which I will shortly
have the joy of administering to these children and which we received a long
time ago, Baptism inserted us into God's own life, making us his adopted
children in his only-begotten "beloved Son".
How can we not give thanks to the Lord, who today calls these 18 infants to
become his children in Christ? We surround them with our prayer and our
affection. They come from Italy, Brazil, Spain, the United States and
Switzerland. With great joy we welcome them into the Christian community,
which today really becomes their family. Together with them I am pleased to
extend a most cordial greeting to their parents and godparents who are
presenting these little ones at the altar. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of
their lives and even more for the gift of their spiritual rebirth.
3. It is very significant that the sacrament of Baptism is being administered
in this Sistine Chapel, where stupendous masterpieces of art remind us of the
wonders of salvation history, from man's origins to the universal judgement. It
is even more significant to contemplate these signs of God's action in our lives
during the Jubilee Year, which is totally centred on the mystery of Christ, who
was born, died and rose again for us.
I hope that these little ones will grow in the faith they are receiving
today, so that they can soon take an active part in the Church's life.
I ask you, dear parents, who are participating with intense feeling this
important moment, to renew the promises of your baptismal vocation. In this way
you will be better prepared to fulfil your task as the first teachers of faith
for your children. These little ones must find in you, and in their godparents,
support and guidance on the path of fidelity to Christ and the Gospel. Be
examples for them of solid faith, of deep prayer and of active involvement in
the Church's life.
May Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church, accompany the first steps of
these newly baptized children May she always protect them, along with their
parents and godparents. May she help each of them to grow in love for" God
and in the joy of serving the Gospel, and thus be able to give hill meaning to