POPE’S MESSAGE | Gift of baptism is to be cherished

L’Osservatore Romano

VATICAN CITY — Children have a right to be brought up in the Christian faith, Pope Francis said.

Parents and godparents must make sure they "feed the flame of baptismal grace in their little ones, helping them persevere in the faith," the pope said May 16 at his weekly general audience.

"Christian education is a child's right; it seeks to guide them gradually to know God's plan in Christ," so they will be able to personally take up the faith in which they were baptized, he said.

Ending a series of audience talks about baptism, Pope Francis talked about the meaning of the white garment and the lit candle the newly baptized are given during the baptismal rite.

"The white garment, as it symbolically expresses what happens in the sacrament, proclaims the condition of those transfigured in divine glory," signifying a new life in Christ, he said.

To "put on Christ," as St. Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians, is to cultivate the virtues of "heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another ... And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection," the pope said.

Giving the newly baptized a candle lit from the paschal candle represents the risen Christ they have received, he said. It reminds people "that we are not the light, but the light is Christ," who has conquered the darkness of evil.

"We are called to receive His splendor" and let one's heart be set on fire, he added.

"The living presence of Christ to safeguard, defend and expand in us is the lamp that lights our footsteps, a light that guides our choices, a flame that warms our hearts in going to encounter the Lord, making us able to help those who journey with us" toward eternity, the pope said.

Pope Francis repeated the same invitation he made in his apostolic exhortation, "Gaudete et Exsultate" ("Rejoice and Be Glad"), asking people to "let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to Him in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life." 

Jesus in heaven invites all Christians to share His good news

VATICAN CITY — As they journey through life, Christians must look for Christ, especially among the poor, and give concrete signs of hope to others, Pope Francis said.

The ascension of Christ ushered in a "new form of Jesus' presence among us," he said in the "Regina Coeli" address to those gathered in St. Peter's Square May 13, the day the feast of the Ascension was celebrated in Italy and many other countries.

The feast day comes 40 days after Easter and commemorates Jesus' ascension into heaven. Some countries, like Italy, observe the feast day the following Sunday.

Pope Francis said the Ascension invites Christians to look to heaven, where Jesus was raised up in glory, and to look back down on earth to share and spread the good news and hope of salvation.

The feast marks the start of the Church's mission, because the risen and ascended Christ sent His disciples out to spread the Gospel to the whole world, the pope said.

"The task Jesus entrusts to a small group of men who are simple and without great intellectual abilities truly seems too audacious," he said. "And yet, this tiny band of people — irrelevant before the great powers of the world — is sent to bring the message of love and mercy of Jesus to every corner of the earth."

That same mission Jesus entrusted to His apostles with the support of the Holy Spirit continues today and requires the help of everyone, Pope Francis said.

Christians are asked to be "men and women of the Ascension, that is, seekers of Christ along the pathways of our times, bringing His word of salvation to the ends of the earth," he said. "On this route we encounter Christ Himself" in others, especially those who are suffering "old and new" forms of poverty.

Christ invites everyone, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to offer "concrete and visible signs of hope" because Jesus has given them hope.

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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