ROME – In his first General Audience after releasing a major document on holiness in ordinary life earlier in the week, Pope Francis on Wednesday said we are Christians to the extent “we allow Jesus Christ to live in us.”

In particular, Francis focused on the intrinsic link between Easter and baptism.

“Baptism permits Christ to live in us, and to live united with him,” he said, “in order to collaborate in the Church, each according to his or her own condition, to the transformation of the world.”

The pope insisted that baptism marks a profound change in one’s life.

“There is a before and after baptism,” he said, saying it “expresses the passage from one condition to another … [it’s] a sign of purification for a new beginning.”

“The baptismal font illuminates all of our life, guiding our steps toward the Jerusalem in Heaven,” the pope said, referring to the receptacle in churches containing the water used in the baptism rite.

“The sacrament assumes a journey of faith, which we call the catechumenate, which is most evident when an adult asks to be baptized,” he said. “But even children, from antiquity onwards are baptized into the faith of their parents.”

“In virtue of the Holy Spirit, baptism immerses us in the death and resurrection of the Lord, drowning the old man in the baptismal font, dominated by the sin that divides us from God, a giving birth to the new man recreated in Christ,” Francis said.

In Jesus, the pope said, “all sons of Adam are called to a new life.”

“Immersing us in Christ, baptism also makes us members of his body, which is the Church, and participants in its mission in the world,” he said.

In his recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, which was released by the Vatican on Monday, a major theme for Francis was the importance of grace and mercy in the spiritual life – recognizing that one never “earns” God’s offer of salvation through one’s own efforts.

On Wednesday, he made the same point about baptism.

“No one merits baptism, which is always a free gift to all, adults and newborns,” he said. “But as happens with a small seed full of life, this gift takes root and bears fruit in land nourished by faith.”

“The baptismal promises that we renew every year in the Easter Vigil have to be reaffirmed every day, so that baptism ‘Christifies’ whomever has received it, rendering us truly another Christ.”

Among other groups on hand to participate in the audience on Wednesday was the British All Parliamentary Group on the Holy See and a group of Canossian sisters from Italy.

Francis’s next scheduled public appearance will come on Sunday, when he delivers the usual noontime Regina Coeli address from the window of the papal apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square. That afternoon, the pontiff is scheduled to head across town to the Roman neighborhood of Corviale, known as one the city’s most poverty-stricken and crime-infested areas, to visit the parish of St. Paul of the Cross.

During his usual swing around St. Peter’s Square before the audience began, Francis greeted three pilgrims from the far northern German-speaking section of Italy, Thomas Burger, Thomas Mohr and Walter Mair del Renon, accompanied by their three lamas, named Buffon, Shaquiri and Tiento. The pope said hello not only to the pilgrims, but to their four-legged friends.