On the Sacrament of Baptism

"We Have the Gift and Task of Living As Sons of God"

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.



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Dear brothers and sisters!

This morning, during Holy Mass celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, I administered the sacrament of baptism to some newborn babies. This custom is linked to the Baptism of the Lord, with which the liturgical season of Christmas concludes.

The Baptism of the Lord suggests quite well the general sense of the Christmas festivity in which the theme of "becoming sons of God" thanks to the only-begotten Son's taking on of our humanity constitutes a dominant element. He became man so that we could become sons of God. God is born so that we could be re-born.

These concepts continually return in the liturgical texts of Christmas and constitute a powerful motive for reflection and hope. We think of what St. Paul writes to the Galatians: "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Galatians 4:4-5); or again, of St. John in the prologue to his Gospel: "To those who received him he gave the power to become sons of God" (John 1:12). This stupendous mystery that is our "second birth" -- the re-birth of a human being from "above," from God (cf. John 3:1-8) -- is realized and summarized in the sacramental sign of baptism.

With this sacrament man really becomes son -- son of God. From that point the goal of his life consists in arriving at, in a free and conscious way, that which from the very beginning was his destination as man. "Become what you are" -- represents the basic educational principle of the human person redeemed by grace. Such a principle has many analogies with human growth, where the relationship between parents and children passes, through separation and crisis, from total dependence to the awareness of being children, to recognition through the gift of life received and to the maturity and capacity to give one's life. Born to new life through baptism, the Christian too begins his journey of growth in the faith, which will carry him to consciously invoke God as "Abba -- Father," turning to him with gratitude and living in the joy of being his son.

A model of society is also derived from baptism: that of being brothers. Fraternity cannot be established through an ideology, much less through the decree of just any power that has been set up. We recognize ourselves as brothers through a humble but profound awareness of being sons of the one heavenly Father. As Christians, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit received in baptism, we have the gift and task of living as sons of God and brothers, to be like "leaven" in a new humanity, united and rich in peace and hope. We are helped in this by the consciousness of having, besides a Father in heaven, a mother too, the Church, of whom the Virgin Mary is the perennial model. To her we entrust the newly baptized children and their families, and we ask for all the joy to be re-born every day "from above," from the love of God, that makes us his children and brothers among ourselves.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

Two things drew my attention in a particular way recently: the case of migrants, who are seeking a better life in countries that need them for various reasons, and the conflicts in various parts of the world where Christians are the object of attacks, even violent ones.

We must start again from the heart of the problem! We must start again from the meaning of the person! An immigrant is a human being, different by provenance, culture and traditions, but a person to be respected with rights and duties, especially, in the sphere of work, where the temptation of exploitation is strongest, but also in the concrete conditions of life.

Violence must never be the way for anyone to solve problems. The difficulty is first of all a human one! I invite everyone to look into the face of the other and to see that he has a soul, a story and a life: He is a person and God loves him as he loves me.

I would like to propose similar considerations in regard to mankind in its religious diversity. Violence toward Christians in some countries has aroused the disdain of many, especially because it has manifested itself in the most sacred days of the Christian tradition. It is necessary that both political and religious institutions -- I emphasize this -- do not neglect their responsibility. There cannot be violence in the name of God, nor can we think that we honor him by offending the dignity and freedom of our equals.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said]

I greet all English-speaking visitors taking part in this Angelus prayer. Today, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Church invites us to contemplate Jesus as the Messiah, the beloved Son of the Father, who gives us a share in the divine life through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. May all of us be renewed in the grace of our own Baptism and strengthened in faithful witness to the Gospel and its promises! Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's blessings of joy and peace.

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