Sunday, January 07, 2007

Angelus Message on the Lord's Baptism


Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, which closes the season of the Nativity. The liturgy offers us the story of Jesus's Baptism in the Jordan as recounted by St. Luke (cfr 3,15-16,21-22).

The evangelist narrates that while Jesus was in prayer, after having received Baptism among so many who were attracted by the preaching of the Precursor, the heavens opened and in the form of a dove, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. And at that moment, a voice sounded from on high: "You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased" (Lk 3,22). The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is remembered and testified to, although in diffrent ways, by all four Evangelists.

Indeed, it formed part of apostolic preaching, since it constituted the point of departure for the entire arch of words and deeds to which the Apostles had to bear witness (cfr Acts 1,21-22; 10,37-41).

The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because that moment - for the first time in history - was the manifestation of the mystery of the Trinity in a clear and complete manner, but also because that moment began the public ministry of Jesus along the roads of Palestine.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan is an anticipation of His baptism of blood on the Cross, and is also a symbol of the entire sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would realize the salvation of humanity. That is why the patristic tradition has dedicated much interst to this feast, which is the Church's oldest feast after Easter.

"In the Baptism of Christ," today's liturgy chants, "the world is sanctified, sins are pardoned; in water and in the Spirit, we become new creatures" (Antiphon to the Benedictus, Office of Lauds). There is a close relationship between the Baptism of Christ and our own Baptism. At the Jordan, the heavens opened (cfr Lk 3,21) to indicate that the Savior has opened to us the way of salvation and that we can walk along it, thanks precisely to our new birth 'in water and the Spirit" (Jn 3,5) which is realized in Baptism.

In Baptism, we become part of the mystical Body of Christ which is the Church; we die and resurrect with Him, we invest ourselves with Him, as the Apostle Paul underscores several times (cfr 1 Cor 12,13; Rm 6,3-5; Gal 3,27). The commitment that comes from Baptism is to 'listen' to Jesus: meaning, to believe in Him and follow him obediently, doing His will, the will of God. It is in this way that each one may aspire towards sainthood, a goal which, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, constitutes the calling of all who are baptized. May Mary - Mother of God's beloved Son - help us to be ever faithful to our Baptism.

Papa Ratzi


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