Vatican City, 13 January 2013 (VIS) – This morning in the Sistine Chapel the Holy Father baptised 20 children born in the past few months and children of employees of the Vatican City State.
In his homily the Pope recalled that, once an adult, Jesus began his public ministry by going to the River Jordan to receive a baptism of penitence and conversion from John. "Was Jesus in need of penitence and conversion?" the pontiff asked. "Certainly not. And yet … he wanted to place himself alongside the sinners … expressing God's nearness. … He demonstrates solidarity with us, with the weariness we feel in trying to convert, trying to leave aside our selfishness, trying to tear ourselves away from our sins, in order to tell us that, if we accept Him in our lives, He is capable of lifting us back up and leading us to the height of God the Father. … Jesus truly immersed himself in our human condition … and is capable of understanding our weakness and fragility. This is why He is moved to compassion. He chooses to suffer with human beings, to be penitent along with us. This is God's plan that Jesus wants to accomplish: the divine mission of healing the wounded and tending the sick, of taking upon himself the sin of the world."
Afterwards he explained that, at the moment that Jesus lets himself be baptised by John, "the heavens open and the Holy Spirit is visibly manifest in the form of a dove while a voice from above expresses the Father's pleasure, recognizing His Son, the Only Begotten, the Beloved. … Thus the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled … the Lord God comes with power to destroy the works of sin and his arm exercises dominion to disarm the Evil One. However, we realize that this arm is the arm extended on the cross and that the power of Christ is the power of He who suffers for us. This is the power of God, which is different from the world's power. This is how God comes, with the power to destroy sin."
Through Baptism, the children baptised today "will be united profoundly and for all time with Jesus, immersed in the mystery of His power … in the mystery of his death, which is the source of life, in order to participate in His resurrection, to be reborn to new life … The heavens have also opened over your children and God says: these are my children with whom I am well pleased. Included in this relationship and freed from original sin they become living members of the one body that is the Church and become capable of fully living their call to holiness so that they might inherit the eternal life obtained for us through Jesus' resurrection."
Addressing the parents who had asked for Baptism for their children, the Holy Father highlighted that they show their "faith, the joy of being Christians and of belonging to the Church. It is a joy that springs from the awareness of having received a great gift from God: faith, a gift that none of us could have merited but which has been freely given to us and to which we have responded with our 'yes'. ... The path of faith that begins today for these children is based, therefore, on a certainty, on the experience that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ and communicating friendship with Him to others. Only in this friendship are the great potentialities of the human condition truly revealed and what is beautiful and liberating can be experienced."
He reminded the godparents that to them falls "the important duty of sustaining and helping the parents in their task of educating. … May you always know how to set a good example for them through exercising the Christian virtues. It is not easy to openly and uncompromisingly express that which you believe in, especially in the climate we are living in, faced with a society that often considers those who live their faith in Jesus as old-fashioned and out of date. In the wake of this mentality, even Christians run the risk of seeing their relationship with Jesus as limiting, as something that inhibits self-realization. … But that is not so! It is precisely through proceeding along the path of faith that we come to understand how Jesus exercises the liberating activity of God's love in us, which allows us to overcome our selfishness …. in order to lead us to a full life in communion with God and openness to others. 'God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.' These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God as well as the resulting image of mankind and its path."
"The water with which these children will be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, will immerse them in the 'source' of life that is God himself and will make them into His children. The seed of the theological virtues, inspired by God―faith, hope, and love―the seed that is today planted in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, must always be nourished with the Word of God and the Sacraments, so that these Christian virtues might grow and arrive at their full maturity, until they make of each one of these a true witness of the Lord," he concluded.