Vatican City (AsiaNews) – With baptism, the old man is buried, with his deceitful passions, so that a new creature can be reborn and “an indelible spiritual seal” is imposed which is never lost, even if one “becomes a brigand, who kills” because “God never reneges his children “.
Continuing his meditation on baptism, Pope Francis centred today’s catechesis on “regeneration”. “The catechesis on the sacrament of Baptism – he told the 20 thousand people present in St. Peter’s Square for the general audience – leads us to speak today of the holy pouring of the water accompanied by the invocation of the Holy Trinity, or the central rite, which properly ‘baptizes’ – immerses – in the Paschal Mystery of Christ (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1239). St. Paul reminds the Christians of Rome of the meaning of this gesture, at first asking: “Do you not know that we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized in his death?”, And then answering: “We were buried through baptism together with him in death so that as Christ was raised from the dead, so we too may walk in new life “(Rom 6: 3-4).”
“The baptismal font is the place in which one experiences the Pasch with Christ! The former man is buried, with his deceitful passions (cf. Eph 4: 22), so that a new creature can be reborn; truly the old things are past and new ones are born (cf. 2 Cor 5: 17). The “catecheses” attributed to Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, thus explain to the newly baptized what happens in the water of Baptism. It is beautiful, this explanation by Saint Cyril: “In the same instant you died and were born, and the same wave of health became for you both tomb and mother” (no. 20, Mystagogy 2, 4-6; PG 33, 1079-1082). The rebirth of the new man demands that the man corrupted by sin be reduced to dust. The images of the tomb and the maternal womb with reference to the font are indeed very incisive for expressing the great thing that happens through the simple gestures of Baptism. I like to cite the inscription in the ancient Roman baptistery of Saint John Lateran, where we read in Latin this expression attributed to Pope Sixtus III: “The Mother Church virginally gives birth by water the children conceived by the breath of God. Those of you reborn by this font, hope in the Kingdom of Heaven”.1] It is beautiful: the Church gives us birth, the Church who is the womb, our mother, through Baptism.
If our parents have given us earthly life, the Church has regenerated us to eternal life in Baptism. We became children of His Son Jesus (cf. Rm 8: 15; Gal 4: 5-7). Upon each one of us too, reborn from the water and from the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Father makes resound with infinite love His voice that says: “This is my Son, Whom I love” (cf. Mt 3: 17). This paternal voice, imperceptible to the ear but easily audible to the heart of those who believe, accompanies us for all our life, without ever abandoning us. During all our life the Father says to us: “You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter”. God loves us greatly, like a Father, and He does not leave us alone. This is from the moment of Baptism. Reborn as children of God, we are thus for ever! Indeed, Baptism is not repeated, because it imprints an indelible spiritual seal: “No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1272). The seal of Baptism is never lost! “Father, but if a person becomes a brigand, one of the most notorious, who kills people, who is unjust, doesn’t the seal go away?”. No. For shame the son of God who is that man does those things, but the seal does not go away. And he continues to be a son of God, he who goes against God, but God never denies His children. Have you understood this last thing? God never denies His children. Shall we repeat this together? “God never denies His children”. A bit louder, as either I am deaf or I did not under stand [they repeat more loudly]. “God never denies His children”. There, that is good.
Incorporated in Christ by means of Baptism, the baptized are therefore conformed to Him, “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rm 8: 29). Through the action of the Holy Spirit, Baptism purifies, sanctifies, justifies, to form in Christ, of the many, a single body (cf. 1 Cor 6: 11; 12: 13). This is expressed by anointing with Chrism, which “signifies the royal priesthood of the baptized and enrolment into the company of the people of God” (Rite of Baptism for Children, Introduction, 18, 3). Therefore, the priest anoints with holy Chrism the head of each baptized person, after pronouncing these words which explain its meaning: “God … now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life” (ibid., 71).
Brothers and sisters, the Christian vocation is all here: living joined with Christ in the holy Church, participants in the same consecration to carry out the same mission, in this world, bearing fruits that last for ever. Inspired by the sole Spirit, indeed, the entire people of God participates in the functions of Jesus Christ, “priest, king and prophet”, and bears the responsibilities of mission and service thus derived (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 783-786). What does it mean to participate in the regal and prophetic priesthood of Christ? It means making oneself an offering, pleasing to God (cf. Rm 12: 1), bearing witness to Him through a life of faith and of charity (cf. Lumen gentium, 12), and placing oneself at the service of others, following the example of the Lord Jesus (cf. Mt 20: 25-28; Jn 13: 13-17).Thank you”.
Finally, today, a thought of the Pope for Syria. In the greeting to the Arab faithful, in fact, Francis invited “to cultivate devotion to the Mother of God with the daily recitation of the Rosary, praying especially for peace in Syria and in the whole world”.