Pope Francis today celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptised infants there on the Feast of the Lord's Baptism. Following Pope Benedict's example, he celebrated Mass ad orientem on the existing altar.
He didn't say much about Baptism in today's homily (no doubt, like many a parish priest, finding the competition from wailing babies would render much comment inaudible). However, he did speak about the profound necessity of Baptism some weeks ago and suggested we make active memory of the date of our baptism:
Baptism is the Sacrament on which our very faith is founded and which grafts us as a living member onto Christ and his Church. Together with the Eucharist and Confirmation it forms what is known as “Christian initiation”, like one great sacramental event configuring us to the Lord and turning us into a living sign of his presence and of his love.
Yet a question can stir within us: is Baptism really necessary to live as Christians and follow Jesus? Isn't it merely a ritual, a formal act of the Church in order to give a name to the little boy or girl? The question can come up. And on this point what the Apostle Paul writes is illuminating: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Therefore, it is not a formality! It is an act that touches the depths of our existence. A baptized child and an unbaptized child are not the same. A person who is baptized and a person who is not baptized are not the same. We, by Baptism, are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life which is the death of Jesus, the greatest act of love in all of history; and thanks to this love we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, of sin and of death, but in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.
Let us as ask the Lord from our hearts to be able to experience ever more in everyday life this grace that we have received at Baptism. That by encountering us, our brothers may encounter true children of God, true brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, true members of the Church. And do not forget your homework today: find out, ask for the date of your Baptism. As I know my birthday, I should know my Baptism day, because it is a feast day.