Dear brothers and sisters!
The joy arising from the celebration of Christmas finds its completion today in the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. To this joy is added another reason for those of us who are gathered here: in the Sacrament of Baptism that will soon be administered to these infants, the living and active presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested, enriching the Church with new children, enlivening and making them grow, and we cannot help but rejoice. I wish to extend a special greeting to you, dear parents and godparents, who today bear witness to your faith by requesting Baptism for these children, because they are regenerated to new life in Christ and become part of the community of believers.
The Gospel account of Jesus’ baptism, which we have heard today according to St Luke’s account, shows the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to adhere to the plan of the Father, to be obedient to His loving will for mankind in all things, even to the sacrifice on the Cross. Having reached adulthood, Jesus begins His public ministry by going to the River Jordan to receive from John the baptism of repentance and conversion. What happens may appear paradoxical to our eyes. Does Jesus need repentance and conversion? Of course not. Yet He Who is without sin is placed among the sinners to be baptized, to fulfil this act of repentance; the Holy One of God joins those who recognize in themselves the need for forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion – that is, the grace to turn to Him with their whole heart, to be totally His. Jesus wills to put Himself on the side of sinners, by being in solidarity with them, expressing the nearness of God. Jesus shows solidarity with us, with our effort to convert, to leave behind our selfishness, to detach ourselves from our sins, saying to us that if we accept Him into our lives, He is able to raise us up and lead us the heights of God the Father. And this solidarity of Jesus is not, so to speak, a mere exercise of the mind and will. Jesus was really immersed in our human condition; He lived it to the utmost – although without sin – and in such a way that He understands weakness and fragility. Therefore He is moved to compassion; He chooses to “suffer with” men, to be penitent together with us. This is the work of God that Jesus wishes to accomplish: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and to cure those who are sick, to take upon Himself the sin of the world.
What happens at the moment when Jesus was baptized by John? In the face of this humble act of love on the part of the Son of God, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit is visibly manifested in the form of a dove, while a voice from on high expresses the pleasure of the Father, Who recognizes the Only-begotten Son, the Beloved. It is a true manifestation of the Holy Trinity, which gives testimony to the divinity of Jesus, to His being the promised Messiah, the One whom God has sent to free His people, so that His people might be saved (cf. Is 40, 2). Thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the Lord God comes with power to destroy the works of sin and His arm exercises dominion to disarm the Evil one; but keep in mind that this arm is the arm extended on the Cross, and the power of Christ is the power of the One who suffers for us: this is the power of God, differing from the power of the world. Thus God comes in power to destroy sin. Jesus truly acts as the good shepherd, that feeds His flock and gathers it together so that it will not be scattered (cf. Is 40, 10-11), and offers His own life that it might live. It is through His redemptive death that man is freed from the dominion of sin and reconciled with the Father; and through His resurrection that man is saved from eternal death and is made victorious over the Evil one.
Dear brothers and sisters, what happens in Baptism, which will soon be administered to your children? What happens is this: they will be united in a profound way and forever with Jesus, immersed in the mystery of His power, that is, in the mystery of His death, which is the source of life, in order to share in His resurrection, to be reborn to new life. See the miracle that is repeated today for your children: receiving baptism, they are reborn as children of God, partakers of the filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father, able to turn to God and call upon Him with full trust and confidence: “Abba, Father!” On your children, too, the heavens are opened, and God says: “these are my children, with whom I am well pleased.” Inserted into this relationship and freed from original sin, they become living members of the unique body which is the Church, and are enabled to live fully their vocation to holiness, so as to inherit eternal life, obtained for us by the resurrection of Jesus.