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Pope Francis today baptized 33 infants in the Sistine Chapel, during the Holy Mass he celebrated on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
In the homily he delivered before baptizing 20 baby girls and 13 little boys, the Pope told parents, godparents and relatives to nourish their children and themselves on the Word of God. "This will be an example to your children, to see their father, their mother, their godparents, grandpa, grandma, their uncles and aunts, reading the Word of God."
Baptism, he said, is the Sacrament through which the Faith of the Church is passed down from one generation to the other. It is like the "passing on of the candle of faith from one hand to another". In fact, he explained that the Paschal candle used in the rite of Baptism represents the Risen Christ alive in our midst. He therefore told families to "receive from Him the light of faith, to pass on to their children".
The Pope then added several extemporaneous remarks on the importance of praying to the Holy Spirit, and concluded: "If you want your children to become true Christians, help them to grow up ‘immersed’ in the Holy Spirit, that is, in the warmth of God’s love, in the light of His Word."
Here below we publish the full text of Pope Francis’ homily.
We heard in the first Reading that the Lord cares for his children like a parent: he is concerned about providing his children with nourishing food. Through the prophet, God says: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? (Is 55:2). God, like a good father and a good mother, wants to give good things to his children. And what is this nourishing food which God gives us? It is his Word: his Word makes us grow, it makes us bear good fruit in life, like the rain and the snow do good to the earth, making it fruitful (cf. Is 55:10-11).
Thus you, parents, and also you, godfathers and godmothers, grandparents, uncles and aunts, will help these little children to grow up well if you give them the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus. And give it also by example! Every day, make it a habit to read a passage from the Gospel, a little one, and always carry a little book of the Gospels with you, in your pocket, in your bag, so that you can read it. And this will be an example to your children, to see their father, their mother, their godparents, grandpa, grandma, their uncles and aunts, reading the Word of God.
Mothers, give your children milk — even now, if they are crying of hunger, nurse them, be at peace. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk, and let us pray for those mothers — there are so many, unfortunately — who are not able to give their children anything to eat. Let us pray for and seek to help these mothers. What milk does for the body, the Word of God does for the spirit: the Word of God makes faith grow. And thanks to faith we are the children of God. This is what happens in Baptism. We heard to the Apostle John: “Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God” (1 John 5:1). Your little children are baptized into this faith. Today it is your faith, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers. It is the faith of the Church, in which this little ones receive Baptism. But tomorrow, by the grace of God, it will be their faith, their personal “yes” to Jesus Christ who gives us the Father’s love.
I was saying: it is the faith of the Church. This is very important. Baptism inserts us into the body of the Church, into the holy People of God. And in this body, in this people on a journey, the faith is passed down from one generation to another: it is the faith of the Church. It is the faith of Mary, our Mother, the faith of St. Joseph, of St. Peter, of St. Andrew, of St. John, the faith of the Apostles and Martyrs, which has come down to us through Baptism: a chain transmitting the faith. This is very beautiful. It is a passing on of the candle of faith from one hand to another: we will express this in a short while through the act of lighting the candles from the large Paschal candle.
The large candle represents Christ risen and alive in our midst. You, families, receive from him the light of faith, to pass on to your children. You receive this light in the Church, the Body of Christ, the people of God who journeys in all times and in all places. Teach your children that one cannot be a Christian outside the Church, one cannot follow Jesus Christ without the Church, because the Church is a mother, and she makes us grow in love for Jesus Christ.
A final aspect emerges powerfully from today’s biblical Readings: in Baptism we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This is what the word “Christian” means, it means consecrated like Jesus, in the same Spirit in which Jesus was immersed throughout his earthly life. He was the “Christ”, the Anointed One, the Consecrated One. We who are baptized are “Christians”, i.e. consecrated, anointed. And so, dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, if you want your children to become true Christians, help them to grow up “immersed” in the Holy Spirit, that is, in the warmth of God’s love, in the light of His Word.
Therefore, do not forget often to invoke the Holy Spirit, every day. “Do you pray, Madame?” — “Yes” — “To whom do you pray?” — “I pray to God” — But “God”, like this, does not exist: God is a person and as persons there are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. “To whom do you pray?” — “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. Usually we pray to Jesus. When we pray the “Our Father”, we pray to the Father. But we don’t pray much to the Holy Spirit. It is so important to pray to the Holy Spirit, because he teaches us to carry our families, the children, forward so that these children grow up in the atmosphere of the Holy Trinity. It is the Holy Spirit who carries this forward. Therefore, don’t forget to invoke the Holy Spirit often, every day. You can do it, for example, with this simple prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love”. You can make this prayer for your babies, as well as for yourselves naturally.
When you say this prayer, you will feel the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us to pray to the Holy Spirit, and to live according to the Spirit, like Jesus. May Our Lady, our Mother, always accompany the journey of your children and of your families. Amen.
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.