Pope: believers are never estranged from each other, and never alone
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Baptised persons and believers "are never truly estranged from one another": whatever the differences among them, they are united by "the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love" that continually call them to become "converts" once again, "with our entire lives oriented toward the Lord. And we must always allow our hearts to be withdrawn again from the force of gravity that pulls them down, and lifted up on high: in truth and love". The Easter vigil, "vigil of all vigils", the most fascinating liturgy of the entire year, was once the liturgy of baptism for the catechumens, a tradition that the pope renews each year at St Peter's.
It was the meaning of baptism that Benedict XVI illustrated during the solemn rite, which began at 9:00 p.m. in the atrium of the basilica of St Peter's, immersed in darkness, with the blessing of the fire and lighting of the Paschal candle. From there, the fire was passed from candle to candle inside the church until all of them were ablaze, symbolising the Resurrection.
With his death, the pope said, Jesus "enters into the love of the Father. His dying is an act of love. But love is immortal. For this reason, his going away is transformed into a new arrival, into a new form of presence that is deeper and that does not come to an end". During his earthly life, he, too, was "bound to the external conditions of existence". "Corporeality places limits on our existence. We cannot be in two places at the same time. Our time is destined to come to an end. And there is the wall of otherness between the I and the you. Of course, in love we can in some way enter into the existence of the other. There remains, however, the insurmountable barrier of being different. Jesus, however, who by his act of love is now totally transformed, is free from these barriers and limitations. He is capable of passing not only through the external closed doors, as the Gospels tell us (cf. John 20:19). He is able to pass through the interior door between the I and the you, the door closed between yesterday and today, between the past and the future". "Now he can also pass beyond the wall of otherness that separates the I from the you".
This is something that in a certain way is reflected in the baptised. "Baptised persons and believers are never truly estranged from one another. They may be separated by continents, cultures, social structures, or even historical distances. But here we encounter each another, we know each other on the basis of the same Lord, the same faith, the same hope, the same love, that form us. Then we experience that the foundation of our lives is the same. We experience that in the inmost depths of our being we are anchored by the same identity, on the basis of which all of the external differences, as great as these may be, are shown to be secondary. Believers are never completely estranged from one another. We are in communion because of our deepest identity: Christ in us. Thus the faith is a force of peace and reconciliation in the world: estrangement is overcome, in the Lord we have become near (cf. Ephesians 2:13).
In baptism, Jesus "draws us toward himself, he draws us into true life. He leads us across the often stormy sea of history, the confusion and danger of which threaten to drown us. In baptism, he takes us by the hand, he leads us along the way that passes through the Red Sea of this time, and leads us into lasting life, into true and authentic life. Let us hold on tightly to his hand! Whatever may happen, whatever may come against us, let us never let go of his hand! Let us walk along the way that leads to life".
Benedict XVI then recalled that "in the ancient Church, baptism was also called the sacrament of illumination: the light of God enters within us, and so we ourselves become sons of light. We do not want to allow this light of truth that shows us the way to be extinguished. We want to protect it against all of the powers that intend to extinguish it, in order to cast us back into darkness about God and about ourselves. The darkness can sometimes seem comfortable. I can hide, and spend my life asleep. But we are not called to darkness, but rather to light. In the baptismal promises we rekindle this light, so to speak, year after year: yes, I believe that my life does not arise by chance, but from eternal Reason and eternal Love, I am created by the omnipotent God. Yes, I believe that in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, in his cross and resurrection is manifested the Face of God; that in him God is present in our midst, uniting us and leading us toward our true destination, toward eternal Love. Yes, I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the word of truth and illuminates our hearts; I believe that in the communion of the Church we all become a single Body with the Lord, and thus we move toward resurrection and eternal life. The Lord has given us the light of truth. This light is also fire, the power of God, a power that does not destroy, but wants to transform our hearts, so that we may become truly men of God and so that our peace may become active in this world".