Benedict XVI Homilies 24129
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of a year full of events for both the Church and the world we are meeting this evening in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and to raise a hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord of time and history.
It is first of all the words of the Apostle Paul that we have just heard which shed a special light on the conclusion of the year: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman... so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Ga 4,4-5).
The concentrated Pauline passage speaks to us of "time... fully come", and enlightens us as to the content of these words. In the history of the human family, God wanted to introduce his eternal Word, making him take on a humanity like our own. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, eternity entered time and human history was opened to absolute fulfilment in God. Time was, so to speak, "touched" by Christ, the Son of God and of Mary, and received from him new and surprising significance: it became a time of salvation and grace. In this same perspective, we must consider the time of the year that is ending and of that which is beginning so that we may put the most different events of our life important or small, simple or undecipherable, joyful or sad under the sign of salvation and hear the call God is addressing to us in order to lead us toward a goal that lies beyond time itself: eternity.
The Pauline text also means to underline the mystery of God's closeness to all humankind. It is the closeness proper to the mystery of Christmas: God makes himself man and man is given the unheard-of possibility to be a son of God. All this fills us with great joy and leads us to offer praise to God. We are called to say with our voices, our hearts and our lives "thank you" to God for the gift of the Son, the source and fulfilment of all the other gifts with which divine love fills the existence of each one of us, of families, of communities, of the Church and of the world. The hymn of the Te Deum which today rings out in churches in every corner of the earth is intended as a sign of the joyful gratitude with which we address God for all that he has offered us in Christ. Truly "from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace" (Jn 1,16).
In keeping with a happy custom, this evening I would like to thank the Lord with you in particular for the superabundance of graces he has lavished upon our diocesan community of Rome in the course of the year that is coming to a close. I would like first of all to address a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the Auxiliary Bishops, to the priests, to the consecrated people, as well as to the many lay faithful who are gathered here. I likewise greet the Mayor and Authorities present with respectful cordiality. I then extend my thoughts to all who live in our city, particularly those who are in situations of difficulty and hardship: I assure to each and every one my spiritual closeness, strengthened by constant remembrance in prayer.
As regards the progress of the Diocese of Rome, I renew my appreciation of the pastoral decision to dedicate time to review the ground covered in order to increase the sense of belonging to the Church and to foster pastoral co-responsibility. To emphasize the importance of this reappraisal, I too wished to make my own contribution by addressing the Diocesan Convention at St John Lateran, in the afternoon of last 26 May. I rejoice because the diocesan programme is proceeding positively, with a far-reaching apostolic action. It is being carried out in the parishes, the prefectures and the various ecclesial associations in two essential contexts for the life and mission of the Church: the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and the witness of charity. I would like to encourage the faithful to participate in large numbers in the assemblies that will be held in the various parishes so as to make an effective contribution to building up the Church. Today too, the Lord wants to make his love for humanity known to the inhabitants of Rome and entrusts to each one, in the diversity of ministries and responsibilities, the mission of proclaiming his word of truth and of witnessing to charity and solidarity.
Only by contemplating the mystery of the Incarnate Word can human beings find the answer to the great questions of human existence and thus discover the truth of their own identity. For this reason the Church, throughout the world and also here in the City, is working to promote the integral development of the human person. I was therefore pleased to learn that a series of "cultural meetings in the Cathedral" have been planned, whose theme will be my recent Encyclical Caritas in Veritate.
For some years many families, numerous teachers and parish communities have been dedicated to helping young people build their future on firm foundations, especially on the rock that is Jesus Christ. I hope that this renewed educational commitment may increasingly achieve a fertile synergy between the ecclesial community and the City so as to help young people plan their own lives. I likewise express the wish that a precious contribution in this important area may come from the Convention promoted by the Vicariate that will be held next March.
To be authoritative witnesses of the truth about the human being prayerful listening to the word of God is essential. In this regard, I would like above all to recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina. The parishes and the various ecclesial realities, also thanks to the booklet prepared by the Vicariate, will be able to promote this ancient practice and put it to good use so that it becomes an essential part of ordinary pastoral care.
The word, believed, proclaimed and lived impels us to acts of solidarity and sharing. In praising the Lord for the help that the Christian communities have been able to offer generously to all who have knocked at their door, I would like to encourage all to persevere in their commitment to alleviating the difficulties besetting many families, sorely tried by the economic crisis and unemployment. May the Nativity of the Lord which reminds us of how God came to save us of his own free will, taking on our humanity and giving us his divine life help every person of good will to understand that it is only by opening oneself to God's love that human action is changed and transformed, becoming the leaven of a better future for all.
Dear brothers and sisters, Rome needs priests who are courageous heralds of the Gospel and, at the same time, reveal the merciful face of the Father. I invite young people not to be afraid to respond with the complete gift of their lives to the call that the Lord addresses to them to follow him on the path of priesthood or of consecrated life.
I hope, from this moment, that the meeting next 25 March, the 25th anniversary of the institution of the World Youth Day and the 10th anniversary of the unforgettable Day at Tor Vergata, may be for all the parish and religious communities, and for the movements and associations, a strong moment of reflection and invocation, to obtain from the Lord the gift of numerous vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
As we take our leave of the year that is ending and set out towards the new one, today's Liturgy ushers us into the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. The Blessed Virgin is Mother of the Church and Mother of each one of her members, that is, Mother of each of us, in Christ. Let us ask her to accompany us with her caring protection, today and for ever, so that Christ may one day welcome into his glory, into the assembly of the Saints: Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari. Alleluia! Amen!
January 2010: SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD - 43rd WORLD DAY OF PEACE10110
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the first day of the New Year we have the joy and the grace of celebrating the Most Holy Mother of God and, at the same time, the World Day of Peace. In both these events we are celebrating Christ, Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and our true peace! To all of you who are gathered here: representatives of the world's peoples, of the Roman and universal Church, priests and faithful; and to all who are connected via radio and television, I repeat the words of the ancient Blessing: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nb 6,26). Today I wish to develop precisely the theme of the Face and of faces, in the light of the word of God the Face of God and human faces a theme that also gives us a key to the interpretation of the problem of peace in the world.
We heard in both the First Reading from the Book of Numbers and in the Responsorial Psalm, several expressions with reference to God that contain the metaphor of the face: "The Lord make his face to shine upon you, / and be gracious to you" (Nb 6,25). "May God be gracious to us and bless us /and make his face to shine upon us / that your way may be known upon earth, / your saving power among all nations" (Ps 67,1-3 : 1-3). The face is the expression of the person par excellence. It is what makes him or her recognizable and from it transpire sentiments, thoughts and heartfelt intentions. God by his nature is invisible, yet the Bible applies this image to him too. Showing his face is an expression of his benevolence, whereas hiding it indicates his anger and indignation. The Book of Exodus says that "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex 33,11), and again it was to Moses that the Lord promised his closeness with a very unusual formula: "my presence [face] will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Ex 33,14). The Psalms show believers to us as those who seek God's Face (cf. Ps 27,8 : 8); Ps 105,4 : 4), and who, in worship, long to see him (Ps 42,3 : 3) and tell us that "the upright" shall "behold his face" (Ps 11,7 : 7).
One may interpret the whole biblical narrative as the gradual revelation of the Face of God, until it reaches his full manifestation in Jesus Christ. "When the time had fully come", the Apostle Paul has reminded us today too, "God sent forth his Son", (Ga 4,4), immediately adding, "born of woman, born under the law". God's Face took on a human face, letting itself be seen and recognized in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who for this reason we venerate with the loftiest title of "Mother of God". She, who had preserved in her heart the secret of the divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb. The Mother had a very special, unique and, in a certain way, exclusive relationship with the newborn Son. The first face a child sees is that of his mother and this gaze is crucial for his relationship with life, with himself, with others and with God; it is also crucial if he is to become a "son of peace" (Lc 10,6). Among the many typologies of icons of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition is the one called "of tenderness" that portrays the Child Jesus with his face resting, cheek to cheek, against his Mother's. The Child gazes at the Mother and she is looking at us, almost as if to mirror for those who are observing and praying the tenderness of God who came down to her from Heaven and was incarnate in the Son of man, whom she holds in her arms. We can contemplate in this Marian image something of God himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled him "to give his Only Son" (cf. Jn 3,16). But that same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects Christ's light upon us and upon the whole world, the Church through which the Good News reaches every person: "You are no longer a slave but a son" (Ga 4,7), as once again we read in St Paul.
Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, Mr Ambassadors, dear friends, meditating on the mystery of the Face of God and on the human face is a privileged path that leads to peace. It starts, in fact, with a respectful look that recognizes a person in the face of the other, whatever the colour of his skin, whatever his nationality, language or religion. But who, other than God, can guarantee, so to speak, the "depth" of the human face? In fact, only if we have God in our hearts are we able to perceive in the face of the other a brother in humanity, not a means but an end, not a rival or enemy but another self, another facet of the infinite mystery of the human being. Our perception of the world and, in particular, of our fellows, depends essentially on the presence within us of God's Spirit. It is a sort of "resonance": those whose hearts are empty only perceive flat images lacking in depth. On the other hand, the more we are inhabited by God the more we are sensitive to his presence in our surroundings: in all creatures and especially in other human beings, although the human face, in turn marked by the trials of life and by evil, may be difficult to appreciate and accept as an epiphany of God. With all the more reason then, to recognize and respect each other as we really are, in other words as brothers and sisters, we need to refer to the Face of a common Father who loves us all despite our limitations and failings.
It is important to be taught respect for others, even when they are different from us, from an early age. Increasingly today classes in schools consist of children of various nationalities but even when this is not the case their faces are a prophecy of the humanity we are called to form: a family of families and peoples. The smaller these children are, the more they awaken in us tenderness and joy at an innocence and brotherhood that seem obvious to us despite their differences, they cry and laugh in the same way, they have the same needs, they communicate spontaneously, they play together.... Children's faces are like a reflection of God's gaze on the world. So why extinguish their smiles? Why poison their hearts? Unfortunately the icon of the Mother of the God of Tenderness finds its tragic opposite in the sorrowful images of so many children and their mothers at the mercy of war and violence, refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants. Faces hollowed by hunger and disease, faces disfigured by suffering and desperation and the faces of little innocents are a silent appeal to our responsibility: before their helpless plight, all the false justifications of war and violence fall away. We must simply convert to projects of peace, lay down every kind of weapon and strive all together to build a world that is worthier of the human being.
My Message for today's 43rd World Day of Peace, "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation", fits within the perspective of God's Face and of human faces. Indeed, we can say that the human being is capable of respecting creatures insofar as he bears in his mind a full sense of life, otherwise he will be inclined to despise himself and all that surrounds him, to have no respect for the environment in which he lives and no respect for Creation. Those who can recognize in the cosmos the reflections of the Creator's invisible face, tend to have greater love for creatures and greater sensitivity to their symbolic value. The Book of Psalms is especially rich in testimonies of this truly human way of relating to nature: to the sky, the sea, mountains, hills, rivers, animals.... "O Lord, how manifold are your works!", the Psalmist explains: "In wisdom have you made them all; / the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps 104,24 : 24).
The perspective of the "face" in particular invites us to reflect on what, also in this Message, I have called "human ecology". In fact there is a very close connection between respect for the human being and the safeguard of creation. "Our duties towards the environment flow from our duties towards the person, considered both individually and in relation to others" (n. 12). If the person becomes degenerate the environment in which he lives deteriorates; if culture is inclined to nihilism if not theoretical practical nature cannot but pay the consequences. In fact, it is possible to note a reciprocal influence between the human face and the "face" of the environment: "when "human ecology' is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits" (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ). I therefore renew my appeal to invest in education, proposing as an objective, in addition to the necessary transmission of technical and scientific notions, a broader and deeper "ecological responsibility", based on respect for human beings and their fundamental rights and duties. Only in this way can the commitment to the environment truly become an education in peace and in building peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, a Psalm recurs in the Christmas Season that contains, amongst other things, a wonderful example of how God's coming will transfigure the creation and give rise to a sort of cosmic celebration. This hymn begins with an invitation to all peoples to praise: "Sing to the Lord a new song; / sing to the Lord, all the earth! / Sing to the Lord, bless his Name" (Ps 96,1 : 1). Yet at a certain point this appeal for exultation is extended to the whole of creation: "Let the Heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; / let the sea roar, and all that fills it; / let the field exalt, and everything in it! / Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy" (Ps 96,11-12). The celebration of faith becomes a celebration of the human being and of creation: that celebration which is also expressed at Christmas in decorations on trees, in streets and in houses. Everything flourishes anew because God has appeared in our midst. The Virgin Mother shows the Infant Jesus to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who rejoice and praise the Lord (cf. Lc 2,20). The Church renews the mystery for people of every generation, she shows them God's Face so that, with his Blessing, they may walk on the path of peace.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the great light that radiates from the Cave of Bethlehem inundates all of mankind through the Magi from the East. The first Reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah; and the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, which we just heard, juxtapose the promise and its fulfilment in that particular tension noted when reading passages from the Old and New Testaments in succession. Following the humiliations undergone by the people of Israel at the hands of worldly powers, the splendid vision of the Prophet Isaiah appears before us. He sees the moment when the great light of God that seems powerless and incapable of protecting his people will rise to shine on all the earth so that the kings of nations bow before him, coming from the ends of the earth to deposit their most precious treasures at his feet. And the heart of the people will tremble with joy.
Compared to this vision, the one the Evangelist Matthew presents to us appears poor and humble: it seems impossible for us to recognize in it the fulfilment of the Prophet Isaiah's words. In fact, those who arrived in Bethlehem were not the powerful and the kings of the earth, but the Magi, unknown men, perhaps regarded with suspicion, and in any case, not deemed worthy of special attention. The inhabitants of Jerusalem learned of the event but did not think it worth bothering about. Not even in Bethlehem did anyone seem to take any notice of the birth of this Baby, called King of the Jews by the Magi, nor about these men who had come from the East to visit him. Soon after, in fact, when Herod made it clear that he was effectively the one in power forcing the Holy Family to flee to Egypt and offering proof of his cruelty by the massacre of the innocents (cf. Mt 2,13-18) the episode of the Magi seemed to have been disregarded and forgotten. It is therefore understandable that the hearts and souls of believers throughout the centuries have been attracted more by the vision of the Prophet than by the sober narration of the evangelist, as the Nativity scenes also show where there are camels, dromedaries and powerful kings of the world kneeling before the Child, laying down their gifts to him in precious caskets. But we must pay more attention to what the two texts communicate to us.
In fact, what did Isaiah see with his prophetic vision? In one single moment, he glimpsed a reality that was destined to mark all history. But even the event that Matthew narrates is not a brief and negligible episode that closes with the Magi hastening back to their own lands. On the contrary, it is the beginning. Those figures who came from the East were not the last but the first of a great procession of those who, throughout the epochs of history, are able to recognize the message of the Star, who know how to walk on the paths indicated by Sacred Scripture. Thus they also know how to find the One who seems weak and fragile but instead has the power to grant the greatest and most profound joy to the heart of man. In him, indeed, is made manifest the stupendous reality that God knows us and is close to us, that his greatness and power are not expressed according to the world's logic, but to the logic of a helpless baby whose strength is only that of the love which he entrusts to us. In the journey of history, there are always people who are enlightened by the light of the Star, who find the way and reach him. They all live, each in his or her own way, the experience of the Magi.
They had brought gold, incense and myrrh. These are certainly not gifts that correspond to basic, daily needs. At that moment, the Holy Family was far more in need of something different from incense or myrrh, and not even the gold could have been of immediate use to them. But these gifts have a profound significance: they are an act of justice. In fact, according to the mentality prevailing then in the Orient, they represent the recognition of a person as God and King, that is, an act of submission. They were meant to say that from that moment, the donors belonged to the sovereign and they recognize his authority. The consequence is immediate. The Magi could no longer follow the road they came on, they could no longer return to Herod, they could no longer be allied with that powerful and cruel sovereign. They had always been led along the path of the Child, making them ignore the great and the powerful of the world, and taking them to him who awaits us among the poor, the road of love which alone can transform the world.
Therefore, not only did the Magi set out on their journey, but their deed started something new they traced a new road, and a new light has come down on earth which has never faded. The Prophet's vision is fulfilled: that light could no longer be ignored by the world. People would go towards that Child and would be illumined by that joy that only he can give. The light of Bethlehem continues to shine throughout the world. To those who have welcomed this light, St Augustine said: "Even we, recognizing Christ our King and Priest who died for us, have honoured him as if we had offered him gold, incense and myrrh. But what remains is for us to bear witness to him by taking a different road from that on which we came" (Sermo 202. In Epiphania Domini, 3,4).
Thus if we read together the promise of the Prophet Isaiah and its fulfilment in the Gospel of Matthew in the great context of all history, it is evident that what we have been told which we seek to reproduce in our Nativity scenes is neither a dream nor a vain play on sensations and emotions, devoid of vigour and reality, but is the Truth that irradiates in the world, although Herod always seems stronger, and that Infant seems to be found among people of no importance or who are even downtrodden. But in that Baby is expressed the power of God, who brings together all people through the ages, because under his lordship, they may follow the course of love which transfigures the world. Nevertheless, even if the few in Bethlehem have become many, believers in Jesus Christ always seem to be few. Many have seen the star, but only a few have understood its message. Scripture scholars in the time of Jesus knew the word of God perfectly well. They were able to say without hesitation what could be found in Scripture about the place where the Messiah would be born, but as St Augustine said: "They were like milestones along the road though they could give information to travellers along the way, they remained inert and immobile" (Sermo 199. In Epiphania Domini, 1,2).
Therefore, we can ask ourselves: what is the reason why some men see and find, while others do not? What opens the eyes and the heart? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent, in those who point out the road but do not move? We can answer: too much self-assurance, the claim to knowing reality, the presumption of having formulated a definitive judgment on everything closes them and makes their hearts insensitive to the newness of God. They are certain of the idea that they have formed of the world and no longer let themselves be involved in the intimacy of an adventure with a God who wants to meet them. They place their confidence in themselves rather than in him, and they do not think it possible that God could be so great as to make himself small so as to come really close to us.
Lastly, what they lack is authentic humility, which is able to submit to what is greater, but also authentic courage, which leads to belief in what is truly great even if it is manifested in a helpless Baby. They lack the evangelical capacity to be children at heart, to feel wonder, and to emerge from themselves in order to follow the path indicated by the star, the path of God. God has the power to open our eyes and to save us. Let us therefore ask him to give us a heart that is wise and innocent, that allows us to see the Star of his mercy, to proceed along his way, in order to find him and be flooded with the great light and true joy that he brought to this world. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this year too I have the joy of administering the sacrament of Baptism to some new-born babies whose parents are presenting them to the Church. Welcome, dear mothers and fathers of these little ones, and you, the godfathers and godmothers, friends and relatives who have gathered round them. Let us give thanks to God who today calls these seven girls and seven boys to become his children in Christ. Let us surround them with prayers and affection and welcome them joyfully into the Christian Community which from this day becomes their family too.
With the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus the cycle of the Lord's manifestations continues. It began at Christmas with the Birth in Bethlehem of the Incarnate Word, contemplated by Mary, Joseph and the shepherds in the humility of the crib. The Epiphany, when the Messiah, through the Magi, showed himself to all the peoples, marked an important milestone. On this day, on the banks of the Jordan, Jesus reveals himself to John and to the People of Israel. It is the first time that he enters the public scene as an adult, after leaving Nazareth. We find him with John the Baptist to whom multitudes have flocked, in an unusual scene. In the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed St Luke remarks first of all that the people "were in expectation" (Lc 3,15). In this way he emphasizes the expectation of Israel and, in those people who had left their homes and their usual tasks, the profound desire for a different world and new words that seem to find an answer precisely in the Precursor's words, that may be severe and demanding and yet are full of hope. The baptism John offers is one of repentance, a sign that is an invitation to conversion, to a change of life, because One is coming who will "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lc 3,16). Indeed it is impossible to aspire to a new world while remaining immersed in selfishness and habits linked to sin. Jesus too leaves his home and his customary occupations to go to the Jordan. He arrives among the crowd that is listening to the John the Baptist and queues up like everyone else, waiting to be baptized.
As soon as he sees Jesus approaching, John realizes that there is something unique in this Man, that he is the mysterious Other for whom he has been waiting and to whom his whole life is oriented. He understands that before him stands One who is greater than he, the thong of whose sandals he is not even worthy to untie.
At the Jordan Jesus reveals himself with an extraordinary humility, reminiscent of the poverty and simplicity of the Child laid in the manger, and anticipates the sentiments with which, at the end of his days on earth, he will come to the point of washing the feet of the disciples and suffering the terrible humiliation of the Cross. The Son of God, the One who is without sin, puts himself among sinners, demonstrates God's closeness to the process of the human being's conversion. Jesus takes upon his shoulders the burden of sin of the whole of humanity, he begins his mission by putting himself in our place, in the place of sinners, in the perspective of the Cross.
While absorbed in prayer he emerges from the water after his Baptism, the skies break open. It is the moment awaited by so many prophets: "O that you would rend the heavens and come down!", Isaiah had prayed (Is 64,1). At that moment, St Luke seems to suggest, this prayer is heard. Indeed, "The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him" (Lc 3,21-22); and words were heard that had never been heard before: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Lc 3,22). In going up out of the water, as St Gregory Nazianzen says, Jesus "sees the heaven opened which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity" (Discourse 39 per il Battesimo del Signore, PG 36). The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit come down among human people and reveal to us their love that saves. If it is the Angels who bring the shepherds the announcement of the Saviour's birth, and the star that conveys it to the Magi who came from the East, now it is the Father's voice that indicates the presence of his Son in the world to human beings and invites them to look to the Resurrection, to Christ's victory over sin and death.
The glad tidings of the Gospel are the echo of this voice that comes down from on high. Rightly, then, Paul, as we heard in the Second Reading, writes to Titus: "For the grace of God has appealed for the salvation of all men" (Tt 2,11). In fact, the Gospel is a grace for us that gives life joy and meaning, "training us", the Apostle continues, "to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world" (Tt 2,12); that is, it leads us to a happier, more beautiful life in greater solidarity, to a life in accordance with God. We may say that the skies are opened for these children today. They will receive as a gift the grace of Baptism and the Holy Spirit will dwell within them as in a temple, transforming their hearts in depth. From this moment the voice of the Father will also call them to be his children in Christ, and, in his family which is the Church, he will give to each one the sublime gift of faith. This gift, which at present they are unable to understand fully, will be sown in their hearts as a seed full of life that is waiting to develop and bear fruit. Today they are baptized in the faith of the Church, professed by their parents, their godparents and the Christians present here, who will then take them by the hand in the following of Christ. Already at the outset the rite of Baptism recalls insistently the theme of faith when the Celebrant reminds parents that in requesting Baptism for their children, they assume the commitment to "training them in the practice of the faith". The parents and godparents are reminded more forcefully of this task in the third part of the celebration that begins with the words addressed to them: "on your part, you must make it your constant care to bring them up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives them is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in their hearts. If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility... profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which these children are about to be baptized". These words of the Rite suggest that, in a certain way, the profession of faith and the renunciation of sin by the parents, godfathers and godmothers constitute the necessary premises for the Church to confer Baptism upon their children.
Just before the water is poured on the head of the newborn child there is a further call to faith. The Celebrant asks a final question: "Is it your will that your child should be baptized in the faith of the Church which we have all professed with you?". And it us only after the affirmative response that the Sacrament is administered. Also in the explanatory rites the anointing with Chrism, the clothing with the white garment and the lighting of the candle, the gesture of the "ephphetha" faith becomes the central theme. "These children of yours have been enlightened by Christ. They are to walk always as children of the light. May they keep the flame of faith alive in their hearts. When the Lord comes, may they go out to meet him...". May the Lord Jesus, the Celebrant of the rite of the Ephphetha continues, "touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father". Then all this is crowned by the final Blessing that further reminds the parents of their responsibility to be for their children, "the first witnesses to the faith".
Dear friends, today is an important day for these children. With Baptism, they become sharers in Christ's death and Resurrection, they begin with him the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples. The Liturgy presents it as an experience of light. In fact, in giving to each one the candle lit from the Easter candle, the Church says: "Receive the light of Christ!". It is the role of Baptism to illumine those being baptized with the light of Christ, to open their eyes to Christ's splendour and to introduce them to the mystery of God through the divine light of faith. The children who are about to be baptized must walk in this light throughout their lives, helped by the words and example of their parents and their godparents. The latter must strive to nourish with their words and the witness of their lives the torch of the children's faith so that they may be shining example in this world of ours, all too often groping in the darkness of doubt, and bring it the light of the Gospel which is life and hope. Only in this way, will they be able, as adults, to recite with full awareness the formula at the end of the profession of faith present in the rite: "This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus Our Lord".
In our days too faith is a gift to rediscover, to cultivate and to bear witness to. With this celebration of Baptism the Lord grants each one of us to live the beauty and joy of being Christians so that we may introduce our baptized children into the fullness of adherence to Christ. Let us entrust these little ones to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary. Let us ask her to obtain that, clad in the white garment, the sign of their new dignity as children of God, they may be throughout their lives faithful disciples of Christ and courageous witnesses of the Gospel. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 24129