Baptism brings us into the 'People of God', makes us members of a 'People on a journey', a 'Pilgrim People in history' - Pope Francis asserted, quoting words from the Second Vatican Council during his Wednesday catechesis at the general audience, which was dedicated to the first of the sacraments.
He explained how life is passed on from
generation to generation and that through rebirth at the baptismal font,
grace is also passed on from generation to generation.
"With this grace
the Christian People walk through time, like a river that irrigates the
earth and spreads God's blessing throughout the world," he said.
The disciples "went forth to baptize. From that time to today there
is a chain in the transmission of faith through Baptism. Each of us is a
link in that chain, a step forward always, like the river that
irrigates. Thus is God's grace and thus also our faith, which we should
pass on to our children, pass on to the children so that these, as
adults, can pass it on to their children. This is Baptism, "it brings us
into this People of God who walk and who pass down the faith."
Through Baptism, each of us becomes " missionary disciples, called to
bring the Gospel to the world. Each of the baptized, whatever their
role in the Church or the educational level of their faith, is an active
agent of evangelization. The new evangelization should involve a new
central role for each of the baptized. The People of God is a People of
disciples because we receive the faith - and a missionary People -
because we pass on the faith. This is what makes Baptism in us: it gives
us Grace and transmits the faith. All of us in the Church are
disciples, always and for our entire lives; and we are all missionaries,
each in the place that the Lord has assigned us."
"All of us,"
the Bishop of Rome improvised, "even the smallest is a missionary and
the one who seems greater is a disciple. Some of you will say: 'Bishops
aren't disciples; the bishops know everything. The Pope knows everything
and isn't a disciple.' No, even
the bishops and the Pope are to be
disciples because, if they aren't, it's not good; they can't be
missionaries; they can't pass on the faith. All of us are disciples and
"No one is saved by themselves" the Pope said to the thousands of
persons gathered in St. Peter's Square. "We are a community of believers
and in this community we feel the beauty of sharing an experience of
love that proceeds us all, but that at the same time asks us to be
'channels' of grace for one another, in spite of our limits and our
sins. The communal dimension is not only a 'frame' or an 'outline' but
an integral part of the Christian life, witness, and evangelization."
Pope Francis ended by recalling the history of the Christian
community in Japan, whose persecution at the beginning of the 17th
century caused many martyrs. "Members of the clergy were expelled and
thousands of faithful were killed. There was no priest left in Japan;
all of them were expelled. The community retreated into hiding, keeping
and prayer hidden. When a child was born, the mother or
father baptized them, since all the faithful can baptize under
particular circumstances. When, after two and a half centuries, 250
years later, the missionaries returned to Japan, thousands of Christians
came out of hiding and the Church could flourish. They had survived
through the grace of their Baptism! This is great: the People of God
pass on the faith, baptizing their children and carrying on. They had
maintained, even in secret, a strong communal spirit because Baptism had
made them to become one body in Christ. They were isolated and hidden
but were always members of the People of God, members of the Church. We
can learn so much from this story!"