Forgetting our baptism is to forget our identity, Pope
Vatican City – On Sunday January 7, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of remembering the day of our baptism, which he said is more than just a date on the calendar, but is the moment we receive our Christian identity and are immersed in the grace and forgiveness of God.
“The feast of the Baptism of Jesus invites every Christian to remember their own baptism,” the Pope said Jan. 7, explaining that to forget one’s baptism “means exposing oneself to the risk of losing the memory of what the Lord has done for us.”
In the end, we consider the day “only as a fact that happened in the past,” rather than recognizing as the day on which “we became new creatures and are also capable of forgiving and loving whoever offends us and does us harm.”
More than just the day that “sociologically marks the parish register,” the day that we were baptized is the day that “constitutes the demanding identity card of the believer,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which this week falls on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus.
Prior to praying the Angelus, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inside the Sistine Chapel, during which he baptized 34 babies in commemoration of the special feast day, which he does every year.
In his address, the Pope noted how the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus marks the end of the liturgical Christmas season.
Turning to the day’s Gospel, he recalled how those who came to John for baptism recognized their sin and wanted to be cleansed in order to start a new life. Because of this, we understand “the great humility of Jesus,” who did not have sin, but put himself “in line with the penitents, mixed among them to be baptized in the waters of the river.”
By doing this, Jesus what we celebrated at Christmas: his own availability “to immerse himself in the river of humanity, to take upon himself the shortcomings and weaknesses of men, to share with them the desire for freedom and of overcoming everything that distances us from God and makes us strangers to our brothers,” Francis said.
Again pointing to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, he noted how it recounts that Jesus, “when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove.”
The Holy Spirit, who worked at the beginning of creation and guided Moses and the people through the desert, “now descends in fullness on Jesus in order to give him the strength to fulfill his mission in the world.”
“It is the Holy Spirit who is the author of Jesus’ baptism,” Pope Francis said. “It is the Holy Spirit who opens the eyes of the heart to the truth, the entire truth. It is the Holy Spirit who pushes our lives on the path of charity.”
The Holy Spirit, he said, “is the gift that the Father has made to each one of us on the day of our baptism. It is the Holy Spirit who transmits to us the tenderness of divine forgiveness.”
Francis noted that it is precisely in the moment when the Jesus makes solidarity with sinners that he hears the voice of his Father, “who confirms his identity and mission.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope then asked the pilgrims present if they know the date of their baptism, since most of them likely received the sacrament when they were children. If the answer is no, he told them to “go home and ask your mom or dad, your grandmother or grandfather, your godmother or godfather,” because it is the day of grace and forgiveness that we should all remember.
He closed his address praying that Mary would intercede so that all Christians “can increasingly understand the gift of baptism and commit themselves to living it with coherency, bearing witness to the love of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis noted how earlier that morning he had “the joy” of baptizing several infants, and prayed that the Mother of God would protect them, “so that, helped by the example of their parents and godparents, they may grow as disciples of the Lord.”
He closed telling pilgrims “don’t forget you homework: what is the day of my baptism? On what day was I baptized?” and asked for prayers.
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