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On the Baptism of the Lord

"Holiness Constitutes the Vocation of All the Baptized"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before praying the midday Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated, which closes the Christmas season. The liturgy proposes to us the narrative of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, according to St. Luke's account (cf. 3:15-16.21-22). The Evangelist narrates that, while Jesus was at prayer, after having received baptism among the many who were attracted by the precursor's preaching, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. At that moment, a voice resounded from on high: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).

Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is recalled and highlighted, though in a different manner, by all the Evangelists. It formed part, in fact, of the apostolic preaching, as it constituted the starting point of a series of events and words on which the apostles were to give testimony (cf. Acts 1:21-22; 10:37-41). The apostolic community considered it very important, not only because in that circumstance, for the first time in history, the manifestation was taking place of the Trinitarian mystery in a clear and complete manner, but also because with that event Jesus' public ministry began on the roads of Palestine.

Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is the anticipation of his baptism of blood on the cross, and it is also a symbol of all the sacramental activity with which the Redeemer would enact the salvation of humanity. For this reason, the patristic tradition has paid much attention to this feast, which is the most ancient after Easter. "In the baptism of Christ," sings the liturgy of today, "the world is sanctified, sins are forgiven; in the water and in the Spirit we become new creatures" ("Antiphon to the Benedictus," Office of Lauds).

There is a profound relationship between Christ's baptism and our baptism. In the Jordan, the heavens were opened (cf. Luke 3:21) to indicate that the Savior opened to us the way of salvation and that we can follow it precisely thanks to the new birth "of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5), which takes place in baptism. In it, we are introduced in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and rise with him, we are clothed in him, as the Apostle Paul underlines on several occasions (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27). The commitment that arises from baptism consists therefore in "listening" to Jesus, that is, to believe in him and follow him docilely doing his will, the will of God. In this way, each one of us can aspire to holiness, a goal that, as the Second Vatican Council reminded, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized. May we be helped by Mary, mother of the beloved Son of God, to always be faithful to our baptism.

[At the end of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today's liturgical celebration of the baptism of the Lord reminds us that through faith and baptism all humanity is called to share in the life of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son. May this mystery of light inspire all of us to live fully the new life of grace bestowed upon us at our baptism and to be faithful witnesses of Christ before the world. God bless you and your families!

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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