Pontiff Links Christ's Baptism and the Cross

Says Immersion in Jordan Was Beginning of Taking on Humanity's Sin

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- With his baptism in the Jordan, Christ began his task of taking upon himself the weight of humanity's guilt, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope explained this today, the feast of Christ's Baptism, before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father noted that Christ's baptism was "his first public appearance after 30 years of a hidden life in Nazareth."

He continued, "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, that Jesus wanted to accomplish, overcoming the resistance of the Baptist, to obey the Father's will?" Benedict XVI asked.

"The profound meaning will emerge only at the end of the earthly event of Christ, that is, in his death and resurrection," he explained. "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.

"This is a task that he will only bring to completion on the cross, where he also receives his 'baptism.' 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.'"

The Pope said that 13 babies also were liberated from the slavery of death today when he baptized them in the Sistine Chapel. The Holy Father traditionally baptizes a group of children on the feast of Christ's Baptism.

"For them and for their families we invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy," he said. "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."