Thursday, November 14, 2013

Francis: Continuing Catechesis on the Creed: "I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins."

VATICAN CITY, November 13, 2013 ( - 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Creed, through which every Sunday we make our profession of faith, we affirm: “I believe in one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” It is the only explicit reference to a Sacrament within the Creed. In fact Baptism is the “door” of faith and of the Christian life. The Risen Jesus left this task to the Apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved” *Mark 16:15-16). The mission of the Church is to evangelize and to remit sins through the baptismal sacrament. But let us return to the words of the Creed. The expression can be divided in three points: “I believe”; in one Baptism”; “for the remission of sins.”

1) “I believe.” What does this mean? It is a solemn term that indicates the great importance of the object, namely Baptism. In fact, by pronouncing these words we affirm our true identity as children of God. In a certain sense, Baptism is the identification card of the children of God, his certificate of birth, it is the birth certificate of the Church. All of you know the day you were born and celebrate your birthday, right? We all celebrate our birthday. I will ask you a question, that I have asked other times before, but I will ask again: Who among you remembers the date of their Baptism? Raise your hand: there are very few (and I won’t ask the Bishops to not embarrass them…). But let us do something: today, when you return home, ask what day you were baptized, search, because this is your second birthday. The first birthday is when you were born into life and the second birthday is when you were born into the Church. Will you do this? It is a task to do at home: to look for the day in which you were born into the Church and thank the Lord because on the day of your Baptism the doors of the Church were opened to you. At the same time, Baptism is linked to our faith in the remission of sins. The Sacrament of Penance or Confession is, in fact, like a “second Baptism,” which refers always to the first to consolidate and renew it. In this sense the day of our Baptism is the point of departure of a journey of conversion that lasts our whole life and which is continually sustained by the Sacrament of Penance. Think of this: when we go to confess our weaknesses, our sins, we are asking forgiveness of Jesus, but we also go to renew our Baptism with this forgiveness. And this is beautiful, it is like celebrating the day of your Baptism in every Confession. Therefore, Confession is not being seated in a torture room, rather it is a feast. Confession is for the baptized! To keep clean the white garment of our Christian dignity!

2) Second element: “in one Baptism.” This expression recalls that of Saint Paul: “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). The word “baptism” means literally “immersion,” and, in fact, this Sacrament constitutes a true spiritual immersion in the death of Christ, from which we are raised with Him as new creatures (cf. Romans 6:4). It is a cleansing of regeneration and illumination. Regeneration because it effects that birth of water and the Spirit without which no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. John 3:5). Illumination because, through Baptism, the human person is filled with the grace of Christ, “true light that enlightens every man” (John 1:9) and scatters the darkness of sin. For this reason, in the Baptismal ceremony, the parents are given a lit candle, to signify this illumination; Baptism illuminates us from within with the light of Jesus. In virtue of this gift, the baptized is called to become himself “light” - the light of the faith they have received for his brothers, especially for those who are in darkness and do not perceive glimmers of light on the horizon of their life.

Let us ask ourselves: is Baptism for me an event of the past, isolated in one date, that which you will search today, or a living reality, that concerns my present in every moment? Do you feel strong, with the strength given to you by Christ with His death and His Resurrection? Or do you feel beaten, without strength.  Do you feel illuminated, with that light that comes from Christ? Are you a man or woman of light? Or are you a dark person, without the light of Jesus? You must take the grace of Baptism, that is a gift, and become light for all!

3) Finally, a brief reference to the third element: “for the remission of sins.” In the Sacrament of Baptism all sins are remitted, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. With Baptism the door opens to an effective newness of life that is not oppressed by the weight of a negative past, but now feels again the beauty and the goodness of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a powerful intervention of the mercy of God in our life, to save us. This salvific intervention does not take away from our human nature its weakness - we are all weak and we are all sinners -; and it does not take away the responsibility to ask for forgiveness every time that we err! I cannot be baptized more times, but I can confess myself and renew the grace of Baptism. It is as if I made a second Baptism. The Lord Jesus is so good and he never tires of forgiving us. Even when the door that Baptism opened to enter into the Church is closed a bit because of our weakness and our sins, Confession reopens it, because it is like a second Baptism that forgives us all and illuminates us to go forward with the light of the Lord.  Let us go forward, joyful, because life is lived with the joy of Jesus Christ; and this is a grace of the Lord.

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