Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Simple Parish Priest

The annual baptism of infants on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord is always one of the more charming rituals on the Vatican calendar. And Benedict XVI took full advantage of it in his first turn as celebrant, speaking off-the-cuff....

As the Pope decided to speak extemporaneously, there is no fulltext of this homily. At least not yet. So here's a taste from AsiaNews' summary of the homily:

Turning to the parents and godparents of the 10 children – five boys and five girls – who were baptized, Benedict XVI put forward a “dialogue” to illustrate the meaning of baptism, with which “we anticipate eternal life, “the good life, true life” for our children. However, he added, “we are unable to give this gift for all of the unknown future, and so we place our trust in the Lord, to obtain this gift from him. In Baptism, the child is inserted in the company of friends who will never abandon him, in life and in death. This company is the family of God which bears the promise of eternity within. A company which will accompany him always, even in days of suffering, in the dark valley of life, giving him consolation, comfort and light. This family gives him eternal life. It indicates the right direction, offers the consolation, comfort and love of God even in the dark valley and on the threshold of death, it gives friendship, life. This company, absolutely trustworthy, never abandons. No one knows what will happen on our planet, in our Europe, in the coming 50,60, 70 years, but of one thing we are certain: whoever belongs to the family of God is never alone, he always has the secure friendship of he who is life. This family of God, this company of friends, is eternal because it is communion with He who has won over death, who has the keys of life in hand. Being in the company of the family of God means being in communion with Christ, who is life and who gives eternal love beyond death. Love and truth are a source of life. Life without love is not life.”

Pursuing his “dialogue”, Benedict XVI illustrated the meaning of questions which the celebrant directs to children during the ritual. Thus, he said, “in Baptism, there are three no and three yes. One renounces to temptation, to sin and to the devil. They are words we know well, but perhaps they do not mean much to us because we have heard them too many times. We must look more in-depth at the ‘no’ to understand the ‘yes’”. He recalled that in the ancient Church, it was to renounce the “pomps of the devils”, that is, to the “apparent abundance of life”, but it was a “no” to a culture of death, expressed in joy before spectacles of violence, like in the Colosseum or here in Nero’s gardens, where men were set on fire like torches. It was perversion, love of deceit, abuse of the body as a commodity, as trade.

“And even in our time, we must say no to the abundantly dominant culture of death, expressed in drugs, in escapism from reality, in what is illusory, in false happiness revealed in deceit, fraud, injustice, scorn of the other, of solidarity, of care for the poor and suffering, revealed in a sexuality which becomes purely enjoyment without ties, which makes man an object so that he is no longer a person but becomes a commodity, a thing. To this pomp of a superficial life which is only an instrument of death, let us say no. The Christian yes then was a great yes to life and it is still so in our time.” It is a “yes to the living God, to a reason which gives meaning to our life, yes to communion with the church in which God lives. We can also say that the content of our great yes is expressed in the Ten Commandments”, which are not only a list of negatives, but a yes to the family, to life, to responsible love, to justice, to truth: “This is the culture of life which becomes concrete and workable.”

PHOTO: AP/L'Osservatore