Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I had the joy of
baptizing 19 newborn babies in the Sistine Chapel. I extend an
affectionate greeting and embrace to each of these children, as
well as to their parents and relatives.
Today's feast stresses how Jesus, at the beginning of his public
life, wanted to receive the "baptism of conversion" (Lk 3:3),
administered by John in the Jordan. This act, by which he, though
innocent, showed his solidarity with sinners, became a moment of
revelation. In fact, as he came out of the water, "immediately he
saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a
dove" (Mk 1:10). By this singular experience, Jesus is accredited
as the Messiah awaited for centuries.
2. In the Jordan the voice of the Father resounds: "You are my
beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Mk 1:11). These words
shed light on the mystery of Jesus Christ: he is not only a "man
of God", like the prophets and saints, but <the Son>, the Only-
Begotten One (Jn 1:18).
As the eternal Son, Jesus is consubstantial with the Father and
the Holy Spirit and lives eternally-in the Trinitarian communion
of the one God. In the Incarnation, the Spirit of God completely
fills his humanity. At his Baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit rests
upon him to initiate him into the messianic ministry and to
inaugurate that great "hour" of grace which will be completed by
his Death and Resurrection. Indeed, Jesus Christ is <the
inexhaustble source of God's Spirit> for every man and woman who
is open to his offer of salvation.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, today's feast sheds light on one of
the spiritual priorities of our journey towards the Holy Year: the
need to have an ever deeper awareness of Baptism as "the basis of
Christian living" (<Tertio millennio adveniente>, n. 41). Those
who receive this sacrament are baptized in the Spirit of God, to
become members of Christ and with him and with our brothers and
sisters, to form "one body" (1 Cor 12:13). An immense gift! We
should celebrate the day of our Baptism as we do our birthday! But
how many of the baptized are fully aware of what they have
received? We must give a new impetus to catechesis, to rediscover
this gift which also means taking on a great responsibility.
May the Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus, accompany us on this
demanding journey of reinvigorating our faith.
Taken from the January 15, 1997 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano".
Editorial and Management Offices, Via del pellegrino, 00120,
Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.
The Work of God Apostolate