ROME – Pope Francis said Wednesday that nothing can take away a person’s baptism or the identity they thereby gain as a child of God, which is why this sacrament cannot be repeated.
“Baptism is not repeated because it imprints an indelible spiritual sign: This sign is never erased by any sin, though sin prevents baptism from bringing the fruit of salvation,” the pope said during his May 9 general audience.
Just as parents give their children earthly life, the Church gives spiritual life through baptism, making each person a son of God through Jesus Christ, he said, explaining that at the moment of baptism, God tells each person that “you are my beloved child.”
“This paternal voice, imperceptible to the ear but well audible to the heart of those who believe, accompanies us for our entire lives, without abandoning us,” he said, adding that this is why the Church believes in only one baptism for salvation.
The belonging a person obtains from baptism “is something you never lose,” Francis said, even if a person sins with something as serious as murder, their belonging to God and his Church never goes away, “he continues to be a son.”
Even though everyone is a sinner and there is a great need for conversion in the life of each person, “God never rejects his children,” he said, and asked the crowd to repeat the phrase with him out loud.
Speaking to pilgrims who braved a rainy forecast to join him for the audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope continued his catechesis on baptism, focusing this week on the moment a person is actually baptized when the priest invokes the Trinity, saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
He then pointed to the biblical passage in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in which the apostle asked: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
The baptismal font is the place where one actually rises with Christ, he said, adding that in baptism, “the old man is buried, with his deceptive passions, so that he is reborn as a new creature.”
“At the same time you die and are born, and the same salutary wave becomes for you tomb and mother,” the pope said, quoting St. Cyril of Jerusalem.
Man’s rebirth as a new creation, then, naturally “demands that the man corrupted by sin is reduced to dust,” he said, adding that the images of the tomb and of the maternal womb referred to by St. Cyril are “incisive” phrases which express the reality of what happens during baptism.
To be incorporated in the body of Christ through baptism means one must also conform to him, Francis said, adding that the action of the Holy Spirit during the sacrament purifies, sanctifies and justifies the person in order to bring them into one body united to Christ.
This dynamic is expressed when the priest anoints the baptized person with oil after reciting the phrase: “God himself consecrates you with the chrism of salvation so that inserted into Christ, priest, king, and prophet, you will always be members of his body for eternal life.”
Francis closed his address saying the entire vocation of a Catholic can be summed up as the necessity to live united to Jesus Christ and his Church “in order to carry out the same mission in this world, bringing fruits which last forever.”
“Animated by the only Spirit, the entire People of God participate in the functions of Jesus Christ, priest, prophet and king, and carry the responsibility of the mission and service that derive from them,” he said.
To participate in the kingly and prophetic priesthood of Christ, he said, means above all “to make oneself a free offering to God, giving testimony through a life of faith and charity, putting them at the service of others in the example of the Lord Jesus.”