POPE’S MESSAGE | Holy Spirit, not magic, protects people from evil through baptism

Paul Haring | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The sacrament of baptism isn't a good luck charm but a gift from God that enables Christians to overcome evil, Pope Francis said.

Those who receive the sacrament are given the strength to overcome "the temptation to separate from God, from His will, from communion with Him (and) fall into the snares of worldly seductions," the pope said April 25 at his weekly general audience.

"Baptism is not a magic spell but a gift of the Holy Spirit that allows those who receive it to fight against the spirit of evil, believing that God sent His son into the world to destroy the power of Satan and bring men and women from the darkness to His kingdom of infinite light," he said.

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the general audience despite the day being a national holiday commemorating Italy's liberation from Nazi occupation.

Pope Francis, however, chose to reflect on the spiritual liberation from evil offered to men and women who receive the sacrament of baptism.

Continuing his series of Easter-season talks on baptism, the pope said that the litany of the saints and the prayers of exorcism that are part of the baptismal rite are gestures meant to reassure catechumens "that the prayer of the Church assists them in the fight against evil and accompanies them on the path of good."

"At the baptismal font, no one ever goes alone, but is accompanied by the prayer of the whole Church," the pope said.

Another important and symbolic gesture, he explained, is anointing with oil the chest of the person about to be baptized.

Like the ancient gladiators who used oil to tone their muscles and slip through the clutches of their adversary, Christians are anointed as a sign of Christ's power "that strengthens us to fight against evil and overcome it," the pope said.

Although the fight against evil is a "lifelong struggle," he said, Christians can rest assured that the Church "prays so that her children do not succumb to the snares of evil."

"Strengthened by the risen Christ, who conquered the prince of this world, we too can say with faith like St. Paul: 'I can do all things through Him who gives me strength,'" the pope said. 

Don't be 'couch potatoes,' get up and evangelize, pope says

VATICAN CITY — Christians must be willing to move where the Spirit leads them and not be benchwarmers on the sidelines of efforts to evangelize, Pope Francis said.

Evangelization "isn't a well-thought-out plan of proselytism" but rather an occasion in which the Holy Spirit "tells you how you should go to bring the word of God, to carry Jesus' name," the pope said in his homily April 19 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"A 'couch potato' evangelization doesn't exist. Get up and go! Be always on the move. Go to the place where you must speak the word (of God)," he said.

The pope reflected on the day's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles in which the apostle Philip, after being commanded by an angel, preaches the Gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch and baptizes him.

Comparing the event to a wind that carries seedlings and plants them, Pope Francis said it was a beautiful account of how God works in evangelization.

"This is how the Lord evangelizes, this is how the Lord proclaims, this is how the Lord wants us to evangelize," the pope said.

The great wind carrying the seed of God's word, he added, was the Christian persecution which caused the disciples to spread out and preach the Gospel.

Christians, he said, "cannot evangelize theoretically" but must get up, approach others and proclaim God's word beginning from a person's concrete situation.

But even the best, most active plan of evangelization will not work without the Holy Spirit's gifts and guidance, he said. "It is the Spirit that pushes us to get up, to approach others and to begin from their situations."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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