VATICAN - Pope Francis: Proclamation and witness of the Gospel arise from the grace of Baptism

Wednesday, 13 December 2023 pope francis   mission   evangelization   baptism  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The grace of baptism opens the "ears and mouth" of the one who receives it, freeing them from deafness to the calls of God and from closed mutism towards brothers and sisters. Thus, the proclamation and witness of the Gospel accompanied every authentic Christian experience as a sure and living sign of the grace received in baptism. Pope Francis emphasized this at today's general audience on Wednesday, December 13, in the final catechesis of the cycle dedicated to passion for the proclamation of the Gospel and apostolic zeal. In his address to those in the Paul VI Audience Hall, the Bishop of Rome showed how and why the witness and proclamation of the Gospel concerns every baptized person and represents the raison d'être of the Church. He did this by starting from the gestures that the celebrant repeats in church each time he administers the first sacrament of Christian life.

"At baptism," Pope Francis recalled, "the celebrant touching the ears and the lips of the baptized, says: “May the Lord Jesus, who made the deaf hear and the mute speak, grant that you may soon receive his word and profess the faith”. In the Bible - the Pontiff added - "the phenomenon of mutism, of deafness, which is also metaphorical, signifies being closed to God’s calls. There is a physical deafness, but in the Bible, the one who is deaf to the Word of God is mute, and does not communicate the Word of God".

Through baptism, Christ himself frees us from the inner closure that arises from mutism and spiritual deafness. A liberation well represented by the "decisive word" that Jesus uttered in the miracle of the healing of the deaf and dumb, the word Ephphatha" which in Aramaic means "be open": "may the ears be open, may the tongue be open". "This word", said Pope Francis, "is an invitation that is addressed not so much to the deaf man, who could not hear him, but precisely to the disciples of that time and of every age. We too, who have received the ephphatha of the Spirit in Baptism, are called to be open. “Be open”, Jesus says to every believer and to his Church: be open because the Gospel message needs you to witness it and proclaim it!".

“Therefore,” continued the Successor of Peter, “every Christian “should be open to the Word of God and to service to others. Christians who are closed always end up badly because they are not Christians. They are ideologists of closure”.

“Even at the end of the Gospels”, the Pope said in his catechesis, “Jesus entrusts us with his missionary desire”, when he sends his disciples out to proclaim the Gospel. “As baptized people, we all feel called to witness and proclaim Jesus” Pope Francis continued, “and let us ask for the grace, as Church, to bring about a pastoral and missionary conversion". Jesus himself, "on the banks of the Sea of Galilee" added the Bishop of Rome at the end of his catechesis, "asked Peter if he loved him and then asked him to tend his sheep. Let us too ask ourselves. Let each one of us ask ourselves this question, let us ask ourselves: Do I truly love the Lord to the point of wanting to proclaim him? Do I want to become his witness or am I content to be his disciple? Do I take to heart the people I meet, bringing them to Jesus in prayer? Do I want to do something so that the joy of the Gospel, which has transformed my life, may make their lives more beautiful? Let us think about this, let us think about these questions and go forward with our witness".

At the end of the general Audience, Pope Francis, in a greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, reminded everyone to "ask for the gift of peace for the populations suffering from war, especially for Israel, Palestine and the tormented Ukraine". He then renewed the appeal "for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the conflict in Israel and Palestine. "I encourage all the parties involved", the Pope said, "to resume negotiations and I ask everyone to make an urgent commitment to ensure that humanitarian aid will reach the people of Gaza, who are at the end of their tether and in great need of it. May all the hostages be freed. They had seen some hope in the recent truce. May the enormous suffering of the Israelis and the Palestinians end. Please: no to weapons, yes to peace” (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 13/12/2023)