In his Sunday Angelus remarks Pope Francis stressed the importance of both knowing and celebrating the day of our baptism, since it is through the sacrament that we become children of God.
“I ask you a question: who among you remembers the day of their baptism?” the Pope asked during his Jan. 10 Angelus address, marking the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
“Certainly, not everyone” knows the date, he noted, and urged those who don’t to go and look for it, if necessary asking parents, grandparents, godparents or even their parish for help.
Baptism is important to celebrate because “it’s the date of our rebirth as children of God,” Francis said, and gave those present “the homework” of finding the date during the coming week.
Before praying the Angelus Pope Francis baptized 26 babies – 13 girls and 13 boys – in the Sistine Chapel. He asked pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square to offer special prayers for the infants before turning to the day’s Scripture passages.
In his reflections, the Pope recalled how when Jesus was baptized in the day’s Gospel, taken from Luke, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove.
With the Father’s words “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased,” Jesus is consecrated and becomes the awaited Messiah, savior and liberator, he said.
He noted that in the event of Jesus’ baptism, the transition is made from John’s baptism with water, to the baptism of Jesus in “Spirit and fire.”
Francis said that the Holy Spirit is really the protagonist in the sacrament, since “he is the one who burns and destroys original sin, returning to baptism the beauty of divine grace.”
“It is he who liberates us from the dominion of darkness, which is sin, and brings us into the realm of light, which is love, truth and peace,” the Pope said, and encouraged attendees to think about special dignity they are elevated to in receiving baptism, namely, that of becoming children of God.
The “stupendous reality” of being children of God brings with it the responsibility to follow Jesus, who is an obedient servant, he said. It also reproduces within us the features of Jesus, primarily those of meekness, humility and tenderness.
Pope Francis noted that it “isn’t easy” to do this, “especially if, inside of ourselves, there is so much intolerance, arrogance and harshness.” However, with the strength that comes from the Holy Spirit, “it’s possible!”
He explained that the Holy Spirit “opens our heart to the truth, to the entire truth,” and guides us down the difficult yet fulfilling path of charity and solidarity with those around us.
“The Spirit gives us the tenderness of divine forgiveness and pervades us with the invincible strength of the Father’s mercy,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit is both a living and life-giving presence for those who accept it.
Francis closed his address by praying that Mary, the “first disciple of her Son,” would intercede in helping all to live their baptism with “joy and fervor,” and to welcome every day the gift of the Holy Spirit, who makes us children of God.
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, the Pope offered a special blessing to all children who have recently been baptized.
He also gave a special blessing to youth and adults who have recently received the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation – or who are preparing to do so.