Francis starts new general audience series on the first sacrament
Pope Francis reflected on why children should be baptized and why there is no need to wait for them to be adults for them to receive the first sacrament of the Church. “In fact, we are Christians to the extent that we let Jesus live in us,” said the pope this Wednesday, April 11, in St. Peter’s Square.
“There are some people who think, ‘Why should we baptize a baby, who doesn’t understand? Let’s wait for him to grow up and understand, so he himself can request baptism,'” said the pope.
“But,” he continued, “this means not trusting in the Holy Spirit. Because when we baptize a child, the Holy Spirit enters him and the Holy Spirit fosters in that child the Christian virtues, which will later flourish.”
Since he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the current Bishop of Rome has insisted on making baptism available. Today he confirmed that “this opportunity must always be given to all children: that of having the Holy Spirit within them to guide them throughout their entire life.”
“Don’t forget to baptize children!” he said after a pause, looking straight at the multitude in attendance.
The context of the pope’s reflection was the part of his catechesis regarding the commitment assumed by those who are baptized as adults.
The tradition of baptizing children, he explained, has its roots in antiquity, when children were baptized in the Christian faith of their parents. He then spoke about the spiritual reason behind this gift of faith to babes in arms.
There is “a ‘before’ and ‘after’ regarding Baptism as a walk of faith,” so that each baptized person can help transform the world.
In this sense, he emphasizes that Baptism is the first of the sacraments and the “foundation of all Christian life,” which is the “door that allows the Lord to make His dwelling place within us and bring us into His Mystery.”
He explained how the Greek word “baptize” means “submerge.” “Bathing in water symbolizes, in various creeds, the passing from one condition to another; it is a sign of purification for a new beginning.”
Baptism “makes us missionaries in the world, each one according to his or her own vocation, so that the world may believe and be transformed,” he said.
Lastly, Francis left all those present with a task for this Easter season: he encouraged them to remember the day of their own baptism.
Baptism, he said, is the “greatest gift we have received […] Remembering our condition as Christians, we should be aware that we belong to God and are called to be witnesses, in the context where we live, to the joy of salvation.”
It is worth remembering that, as is traditionally done, Francis baptized various adult catechumens during the recent Easter Vigil. This year, he baptized a total of eight people: three men and five women, whose ages ranged from 28 to 52.