Recalling the joy of having just baptized several babies in the Vatican, Pope Francis addressed the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer and spoke about how Christians today must adopt Jesus’ meek and simple attitude.
Each year, the Pope celebrates the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord baptizing the babies of Vatican personnel in the Sistine Chapel.
He asked those present for prayers for the little ones and for their families, and he reflected on the liturgy of the day, which recounts the Baptism of Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew.
The Evangelist, the Pope said, describes the dialogue between Jesus – who asks to be baptized – and John the Baptist, who is surprised by this request because he knows that the Messiah did not need purification; and in fact, it is he who needed to be baptized by the Lord.
Bridging the distance between humanity and God
But God, Pope Francis said, is the Holy One: “His ways are not ours, and Jesus is God’s Way, a way that is unpredictable.”
Explaining that the Son of God came to bridge the distance between humanity and God, he said that “If Jesus is completely on God’s side, He is also completely on humanity’s side.”
That’s why, he continued, Jesus replies to John “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness”.
“That is, He fulfills the Father’s plan which comes by way of filial obedience and solidarity with a frail and sinful humanity. It is the path of humility and of the closeness of God to His children,” he said.
The attitude of Christians
The Pope explained that Jesus fulfills His mission in the world with a style that goes against the spirit of the world: “This is the attitude of the meek, and this is what Jesus teaches us with His humility, His meekness: the attitude of simplicity, of respect, of moderation and hiddenness, which is also required of the Lord’s disciples today.”
Unfortunately, he said, many people boast about being the Lord’s disciples; and these are not good disciples of the Lord.
Rather, “the good disciple is the humble one, the meek one, the one who does good” without making a show of it. Christians are called, he said, “to go out to meet others always proposing, not imposing, giving testimony, sharing real life with people.”
As soon as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Pope continued, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove, while a voice resounded from on high saying: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”.
The Pope concluded his remarks with a reminder to those present that in the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we rediscover our own Baptism.
“Just as Jesus is the Father’s beloved Son,” he said, “we too, reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, know that we are beloved children, the object of the Father’s pleasure, brothers and sisters among many other brothers and sisters, entrusted with a grand mission to witness and proclaim the Father’s boundless love to all men and women.”
For those who don’t know when they were baptised, he proposed “a homework assignment”: to find out the date of their baptism. And then, he called on them to celebrate the date of their Baptism every year, reminding everyone that this “is also a duty of justice to the Lord who has been so good to us.”
Pope baptizes babies in the Sistine Chapel: “When a child cries in church, it’s a beautiful homily”
Earlier Sunday, following a long-standing tradition, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday. The feast commemorates Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by His cousin, St John the Baptist.
During the ceremony, the Holy Father baptized more than thirty children born in the past year to families of Vatican employees and diplomats accredited to the Holy See.
An act of justice
In his homily, immediately before the Baptism ceremony, Pope Francis recalled the words of Jesus when asked by John why the Lord was coming to him to be baptized: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all justice”.
“Baptizing a child is an act of justice”, the Pope said, “because in Baptism we give him or her a treasure, we give them a pledge: the Holy Spirit”.
He said it is important to baptize children, “so that they grow up with the power of the Holy Spirit”.
He also urged them “to take care that they grow up with the light, with the power of the Holy Spirit, through catechesis, assistance, teaching, the example you give at home”.
This, he said, “is the message I want to give to you today”.
To parents and godparents: “You bear the Holy Spirit within the children”
Pope Francis also showed his pastoral care for the young families, telling them not to worry if their children made a fuss during the ceremonies. “The children aren’t used to coming to the Sistine [Chapel]. It’s their first time”. If they do start to cry, he said, try to make them comfortable, but don’t worry if they keep it up.
“Children are choral”, he said; if one starts making noise, they all join in. “Don’t get upset!” he said. “When a child cries in church, it’s a beautiful homily”.
“Don’t forget”, the Pope said in conclusion. “You bear the Holy Spirit within the children”.
Pope meets community of Ethiopian College in Rome, laments “tragedies” faced by migrants who have “left their homelands at great cost”
In other news, on Saturday Pope Francis received the community of the Pontifical Ethiopian College on the centenary of its establishment by Pope Benedict XV.
Pope Francis summed up “the Ethiopian presence within the Vatican Walls” in a single word: “Welcome”.
“At the tomb of the Apostle Peter”, he said, “the children of peoples geographically distant from Rome, but close to the Faith of the Apostles in professing Jesus Christ the Saviour, have found home and hospitality throughout the centuries”.
Ethiopians in Rome
The story of Ethiopians in the Vatican goes back to the 15th century, when Pope Sixtus IV granted Ethiopian pilgrims the use of the Church of Santo Stefano degli Abissini (St Stephen of the Abyssinians) in the Vatican Gardens. In the 20th century, Pope Benedict XV established the Pontifical Ethiopian College, which was enlarged by Pope Pius XI.
In his address to the College community on Saturday, Pope Francis recalled the words of one of the early pilgrims, Tesfa Sion, known as Peter the Ethiopian: “I myself am Ethiopian, a pilgrim from place to place… but nowhere, except in Rome, have I found peace of mind and body: peace of mind because here is the true faith; peace of body, because here I have found the Successor of Peter, who favours us in our needs”.
Two churches, one tradition
The Pope noted that the priests who come to study at the college come from both Ethiopia and Eritrea, “two Churches united by the same tradition”, and praised them for richness of their “precious ecclesial tradition”, which he encouraged to preserve.
The Holy Father also expressed his appreciation of the tradition of coexistence, not only with Jews and Muslims, but also with the “brothers and sisters” of the Tewahedo Orthodox Church.
At the same time, Pope Francis recalled with sorrow the many people in their countries “whose lives are marked by poverty” and who have, for a long time suffered from a “fratricidal war” which has only recently come to end.
The Pope prayed for an end to divisions between “ethnic groups and countries with common roots”, and encouraged priests to always be “artisans of good relations, and builders of peace”.
Pope Francis also called to mind the many people in both countries who have “left their homelands at great cost”, many of whom have experienced “tragedies on land and at sea”.
While thanking the priests for their commitment to the pastoral care of migrants, he said that much more can and must be done, “at home and abroad”, in humble and generous service, and “always on the basis of union with the Lord”.
Finally, the Pope expressed his hope that the Church in both Ethiopia and Eritrea “might be guaranteed the freedom to serve the common good… in the certainty that pastors and faithful alike want to contribute to the good and prosperity of your nations”.
Recalling their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis asked the community to entrust all their needs to her, and asked for their prayers, before imparting the Apostolic blessing to them, their families, and their communities.
(Source: Vatican News)