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Pope's Homily on Day of Baptisms in Sistine Chapel

1/18/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"We Need to Say 'No' to Culture of Death"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered without notes on Jan. 8, feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the day he baptized 10 infants in the Sistine Chapel.

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Mass in the Sistine Chapel and Baptisms
Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

Dear Parents and Godparents,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What happens in baptism? What do we hope for from baptism? You have given a response on the threshold of this chapel: We hope for eternal life for our children. This is the purpose of baptism. But how can it be obtained? How can baptism offer eternal life? What is eternal life?

In simpler words, we might say: We hope for a good life, the true life, for these children of ours; and also for happiness in a future that is still unknown. We are unable to guarantee this gift for the entire span of the unknown future, so we turn to the Lord to obtain this gift from him.

We can give two replies to the question, "How will this happen?" This is the first one: Through baptism each child is inserted into a gathering of friends who never abandon him in life or in death because these companions are God's family, which in itself bears the promise of eternity.

This group of friends, this family of God, into which the child is now admitted, will always accompany him, even on days of suffering and in life's dark nights; it will give him consolation, comfort and light.

This companionship, this family, will give him words of eternal life, words of light in response to the great challenges of life, and will point out to him the right path to take. This group will also offer the child consolation and comfort, and God's love when death is at hand, in the dark valley of death. It will give him friendship, it will give him life. And these totally trustworthy companions will never disappear.

No one of us knows what will happen on our planet, on our European continent, in the next 50, 60 or 70 years. But we can be sure of one thing: God's family will always be present and those who belong to this family will never be alone. They will always be able to fall back on the steadfast friendship of the One who is life.

And, thus, we have arrived at the second answer. This family of God, this gathering of friends is eternal, because it is communion with the One who conquered death and holds in his hand the keys of life. Belonging to this circle, to God's family, means being in communion with Christ, who is life and gives eternal love beyond death.

And if we can say that love and truth are sources of life, are life itself -- and a life without love is not life -- we can say that this companionship with the One who is truly life, with the One who is the Sacrament of life, will respond to your expectation, to your hope.

Yes, baptism inserts us into communion with Christ and therefore gives life, life itself. We have thus interpreted the first dialogue we had with him here at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.

Now, after the blessing of the water, a second dialogue of great importance will follow. This is its content: Baptism, as we have seen, is a gift; the gift of life. But a gift must be accepted, it must be lived.

A gift of friendship implies a "yes" to the friend and a "no" to all that is incompatible with this friendship, to all that is incompatible with the life of God's family, with true life in Christ.

Consequently, in this second dialogue, three "noes" and three "yeses" are spoken. We say "no" and renounce temptation, sin and the devil. We know these things well but perhaps, precisely because we have heard them too often, the words may not mean much to us.

If this is the case, we must think a little more deeply about the content of these "noes." What are we saying "no" to? This is the only way to understand what we want to say "yes" to.

In the ancient Church these "noes" were summed up in a phrase that was easy to understand for the people of that time: They renounced, they said, the "pompa diabuli," that is, the promise of life in abundance, of that apparent life that seemed to come from the pagan world, from its permissiveness, from its way of living as one pleased.

It was therefore "no" to a culture of what seemed to be an abundance of life, to what in fact was an "anti-culture" of death. It was "no" to those spectacles in which death, cruelty and violence had become an entertainment.

Let us remember what was organized at the Colosseum or here, in Nero's gardens, where people were set on fire like living torches. Cruelty and violence had become a form of amusement, a true perversion of joy, of the true meaning of life.

This "pompa diabuli," this "anti-culture" of death was a corruption of joy, it was ...

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