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Dear brothers and sisters!
On this Sunday after Epiphany we conclude the liturgical season of Christmas: a time of light, the light of Christ that, as the new sun that appears on the horizon of humanity, disperses the darkness of evil and ignorance. We celebrate today the feast of the Baptism of Jesus: that Child, son of the Virgin, whom we contemplated in the mystery of his birth, we see today as an adult immersing himself in the waters of the Jordan River, and in this way sanctifying all water and the whole cosmos, as the Eastern tradition emphasizes. But why did Jesus, in whom there was no shadow of sin have himself baptized by John? Why did he wish to perform that gesture of repentance and conversion together with many others who wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah? That gesture, which marks the beginning of Christ’s public life, is situated in the same line as the Incarnation, of God’s descent from the highest heaven to the abyss of hell (“inferi”). The meaning of this movement of divine abasement is summed up in a single word: love, which is the very name of God. The apostle John writes: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). This is why the first act of Jesus was to receive the baptism of John, who, when he saw him coming, said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
The evangelist Luke writes that while Jesus, after receiving the baptism, “was in prayer, the heavens opened and there descended upon him the Holy Spirit in bodily form, as a dove, and there came a voice from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved: in you I am well-pleased” (3:21-22). This Jesus is the Son of God, who is totally immersed in the Father’s will of love. This Jesus is he who will die upon the cross and rise up by the power of the same Spirit that now comes to rest upon him and consecrates him. This Jesus is the new man who wishes to live as a son of God, that is, in love; he is the man who, in the face of the evil of the world, chooses the path of humility and responsibility, chooses not to save himself but to offer his life for truth and for justice. Being Christians means living in this way, but this way of life brings a rebirth: being reborn from above, from God, by Grace. This rebirth is the Baptism that Christ gave to the Church to regenerate men to new life. And ancient text attributed to St. Hippolytus: “Whoever enters this bath of regeneration, renounces the devil and aligns himself with Christ, renounces the enemy and recognizes that Christ is God, puts off slavery and puts on the filial adoption” (Sermon for Epiphany, 10: PG, 10 862).
Following tradition, this morning I had the joy of baptizing a large group of children, who were born in the last 3 or 4 months. At this time I would like to extend my prayer and my benediction to all newborns; but above all I would like to invite everyone to recall their baptism, that spiritual rebirth that opened for us to the path of eternal life. May every Christian, in this Year of Faith, rediscover the beauty of being reborn from above, from the love of God, and live as a child of God.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today we celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. In the Message for this year I compared migrations to a “pilgrimage of faith and hope.” Those who leave their own country do so because they hope in a better future, but they also do so because they trust in God, who guides man’s steps, as he did Abraham’s. And in this way migrants are in the world bearers of faith and hope. I offer my greeting to each of them with a special prayer and benediction. I greet in a particular way the Catholic community of migrants present in Rome and I entrust them to the protection of St. Frances Cabrini and Bl. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.
[In English he said:]
I greet all English-speaking visitors taking part in this Angelus prayer. Today, in the Baptism of the Lord, we contemplate our share in the divine life through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. May we be renewed in our own Baptism and strengthened in witness to the Gospel and its promises! Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.
[Concluding in Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Have a good Sunday everyone! Thank you!