On Christ's Baptism

"Jesus Began Taking Upon Himself the Guilt of All Humanity"

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.



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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With today's feast of the Baptism of Jesus, the liturgical season of Christmas comes to a close. The child, whom the Magi came from the East to venerate in Bethlehem offering their symbolic gifts, we find now as an adult, in the moment in which he is baptized in the Jordan by the great prophet John (cf. Matthew 3:13). The Gospel notes that when Jesus, having received baptism, comes out of the water, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon him as a dove (cf. Matthew 3:16). A voice was then heard from heaven that said: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17).

That was his first public appearance after 30 years of a hidden life in Nazareth. The eyewitnesses of this singular event were, besides the Baptist, his disciples, some of whom would from that moment become followers of Christ (cf. John 1:35-40). We have at the same time a Christophany and Theophany: Above all, Jesus manifests himself as the "Christ," the Greek term that is used as the translation of the Hebrew "Messiah," which means "anointed." He was not anointed with oil, in the matter of the kings and high priests of Israel, but with the Holy Spirit. At the same time, together with the Son of God, there appeared the signs of the Holy Spirit and of the heavenly Father.

What is the meaning of this deed, which Jesus wanted to accomplish, overcoming the resistance of the Baptist, to obey the Father's will (cf. Matthew 3:14-15)? The profound meaning will emerge only at the end of the earthly event of Christ, that is, in his death and resurrection. Receiving baptism from John together with sinners, Jesus began taking upon himself the weight of the guilt of all humanity, as the Lamb of God who "takes away" the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29).

This is a task that he will only bring to completion on the cross, where he also receives his "baptism" (cf. Luke 12:50). Dying, in fact, he "immerses" himself in the love of the Father and pours out the Spirit so that those who believe in him can be reborn from that inexhaustible font of new and eternal life. Christ's whole mission is summarized in this: We are baptized in the Holy Spirit to be liberated from the slavery of death and "have the heavens opened to us," that is, have access to the true and full life, which will be "a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy" ("Spe Salvi," No. 12).

This is also what happened for the 13 babies to whom I administered the sacrament of baptism this morning in the Sistine Chapel. For them and for their families we invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy. And we pray for all Christians, that they may understand more and more the gift of baptism and commit themselves to living it with consistency, witnessing to the love of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said the following:]

Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which this year is focusing attention on young migrants. In fact, there are numerous young people who are forced for various reasons to live far from their families and countries. Girls and minors are especially at risk. Some children and adolescents are born and grow up in "refugee camps": They too have a right to a future!

I express my appreciation for those who commit themselves to help young migrants, their families and the integration of their work and study; I invite ecclesial communities to welcome with sympathy the young and the very young with their parents, trying to understand their stories and helping them to become assimilated. Dear young migrants! Commit yourselves together with your contemporaries to building a more just and fraternal society, fulfilling your duties, respecting the laws and not allowing yourselves to be caught up in violence. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of all humanity.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[Then, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

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 upon himself the weight of our sins; then he rises from the water, as 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.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana