Pope Benedict XVI used his Sunday Angelus address to remind Christians of the joy of being “children of God,” courtesy of baptism.
“God is the origin of the existence of every creature and the Father in a unique way of every human being: He has a unique, personal relationship with him or her,” said the Pope from the window of his Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square Jan. 8.
Earlier in the morning the Pope had baptized 16 newborn infants in the Sistine Chapel to mark the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.
Reflecting upon that event, he observed that being a child is “the fundamental condition that binds us together,” for while “not all of us are parents,” we are all children.
“Coming into the world is never a choice; we are not asked first if we want to be born,” he said.
During life, though, we can develop an attitude toward life itself so that we “welcome it as a gift and, in a sense, ‘become’ what we already are: We become children.”
The development of this attitude marks “a maturity in our souls and our relationships with our parents, which is filled with gratitude.”
It is this attitude that makes people capable of being parents themselves “not biologically, but morally.”
“Each of us is willed, is loved by God,” such that it is appropriate to
speak of being ‘born again,’” as children of God.
This happens through faith, explained the Pope and in our “deep and personal ‘Yes’ to God as the source and foundation of our existence.”
“What is the basis of this faith in God the Father?” asked the Pope. “It is based in Jesus Christ,” he answered.
“His person and history has shown us
the Father; it has made him known to us, as far as possible, in this world.” Therefore, believing
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, allows us to be ‘born again.’”
Quoting the words of St. John the Pope said that “to all who received him, he gave the power to become children of God.” This is the “new birth” that occurs in baptism, “through the Holy Spirit and in the womb of the Church.”
The Pope urged Christians worldwide to give thanks to God for the “great mystery” of baptism, which “is a source of regeneration for the Church and for the whole world.”
“God became the son of man because man becomes a child of God,” and so Christians should rejoice for being “born of love of a father and a mother and born again by God’s love through baptism.”
The Pope concluded his comments by commending all present to “the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ” before leading the pilgrims in the praying of the Angelus.
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes the Church’s Christmas season.
As the Holy Father baptized babies during Sunday Mass within the historic surroundings of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, he addressed the parents, godparents, families and friends.
“We can say that this was your first educational choice as witnesses of the faith to
your children: the fundamental choice,” said the Pope.
The Pope explained to those gathered that their role is now to educate their children in conjunction with God.
“Educating is very demanding; it is sometimes arduous because of our human capacities, which are always limited,” he said. “But education becomes a wonderful mission if it is done in collaboration with God, who is the first and true educator of every man.”
To distance ourselves from God, though, is to become like the Prodigal Son, as “we would soon find ourselves in trouble” and “above all we would lose our human dignity.”
“Fortunately for us,” he said, “we can always come back to him,” knowing that when we do “it will bring forth good fruit in our lives, as the rain irrigates the earth.”
That is why the parents and godparents have “undertaken to draw on a good source” from themselves and their children: that source being “the source of salvation,” that is “the word of God and the sacraments.”
Parents, like priests, are not “the source” of such education, but “are, rather, like the channels through which the lifeblood of the love of God must pass.” Therefore, the first and best way to educate “is through witness.”
A model of how to be an educator in the faith is given by St. John the Baptist who is featured in the Gospel reading where he leads his disciples to Jesus Christ.
“The true teacher does not bind people to him; he is not possessive,” but, instead, he
or she “wants the son or disciple to learn to know the truth and establish a personal relationship
with it,” explained the Pope.
Therefore, while a “true teacher” will always
provide an “attentive and faithful presence,” the primary goal is that “the student will listen to
the voice of truth speaking to his heart and pursue a personal journey.”
The parent and godparent is aided in the task ahead by the Holy Spirit, said the Pope, and so it is “very important” for them “to believe strongly in the presence and action” and to welcome and invoke him “through prayer and the sacraments.”
For it is the Holy Spirit, in fact, “who enlightens the mind, warms the heart of the educator, so they know how to pass on the knowledge and love of Jesus,” the Pope explained.
This is why prayer is “the first condition to educate,” as “in prayer we live the initiative to God; we entrust our children to him, who knows them before and better than us, and knows exactly what their true good is.”
It is also in prayer that “we are listening for God’s inspiration, so we may do our part well, which still is our task and which we must achieve.”
He also suggested that a sacramental life is equally crucial for parents and godparents, particularly the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, so that the task of education is carried out “in communion with him and constantly renewed by his forgiveness.”
By being rooted in prayer and the sacraments, parents will know when to “keep silent and when to speak” to their children or when to be “tender” and when “to be firm.”