General Audience Catechesis – 16 May

Pope Francis concludes his catechesis on the sacrament of Baptism…

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we conclude the series of catecheses on Baptism. The spiritual effects of this Sacrament, invisible to the eyes but operative in the heart of one who has become a new creature, are made explicit by the consignment of the white robe and of the lighted candle. After the cleansing of regeneration, capable of recreating man according to God, in true holiness (Cf. Ephesians 4:24), it seemed natural, since the first centuries, to put on the newly baptized a new white robe similar to the splendour of the life obtained in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. While the white robe expresses symbolically what has happened in the Sacrament, it proclaims the condition of those transfigured in divine glory.

Saint Paul recalls what it means to put on Christ, explaining what are the virtues that the baptized must cultivate: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

The ritual handing over of the flame drawn from the Easter candle also recalls the effect of Baptism: “Receive the light of Christ,” says the priest. These words remind us that we are not the light but that Jesus Christ is the light (John 1:9; 12:46), who, risen from the dead, has overcome the darkness of evil. We are called to receive His splendour! As the flame of the Easter candle gives light to individual candles, so the charity of the Risen Lord inflames the hearts of the baptized, filling them with light and warmth. And because of this, from the first centuries Baptism was also called “illumination,” and one who was baptized was called ”illuminated.”

This is in fact the Christian vocation: “to walk always as children of light, persevering in the faith” (Cf. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, n. 226; John 12:36).

When it comes to children, it’s the task of parents, together with the godfathers and godmothers, to take care to nourish the flame of the baptismal grace of their little ones, helping them to persevere in the faith (Cf. Rite of the Baptism of Children, n. 73). “A Christian education is a right of children; it tends to guide them gradually to know God’s plan in Christ: thus they will be able to ratify personally the faith in which they were baptized “ (Ibid., Introduction, 3).The living presence of Christ, to guard, defend and expand in us, is the lamp that lights our steps, light that orients our choices, flame that warms hearts in going to encounter the Lord, making us capable of helping one who journeys with us up to inseparable communion with Him. That day, says again Revelation, “night shall be no more, and we won’t need the light of a lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign for ever and ever” (Cf. 22:5)

The celebration of Baptism concludes with the Our Father prayer, proper to the community of the children of God. In fact, the children reborn in Baptism will receive the fullness of the gift of the Spirit in Confirmation and they will take part in the Eucharist, learning what it means to turn to God calling Him “Father.”

At the end of these catecheses on Baptism, I repeat to each one of you the invitation, which in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate I expressed thus“Let the grace of your Baptism fructify in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God and, to this end, choose Him, choose God always anew. Do not be discouraged, because you have the strength of the Holy Spirit so that it’s possible and, at bottom, holiness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)” (n. 15).

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT,