On Wednesday Pope Francis said that to be a Christian means to have hope in the light of Christ, which we are filled with at our Baptism, even in the midst of difficulties or darkness.
“What does it mean to be Christian? It means to look to the light, to continue to practice the profession of faith in the light, even when the world is wrapped in night and darkness,” Pope Francis said Aug. 2. The Pope resumed his general audiences Wednesday, following a break for the month of July.
Addressing pilgrims gathered in the Pope Paul VI hall of the Vatican, he spoke about the hope found in Christianity, especially in our Baptism, which orients us toward the light of Christ.
“Christians are not exempt from darkness, external and even internal. They do not live out of the world, however, because of the grace of Christ received in Baptism, they are men and women ‘oriented,’” the Pope said. “They do not believe in the darkness, but in the light of day; they do not succumb to the night, but hope in the dawn; they are not defeated by death, but they want to resurrect; they are not bent over by evil, because they always confide in the infinite possibilities of good,” he said. “And this is our Christian hope. The light of Jesus, the salvation that brings us Jesus with his light that saves us from the darkness.”
Francis began his address by explaining how there was a time when churches faced toward the east, so that when a person entered the doors in the west, he or she walked eastward toward the altar. Though this has fallen out of custom, it’s still an important symbol, he said.
“We men of modern times, much less accustomed to grasping the great signs of the cosmos, we almost never notice such a thing,” he said, noting that the west is the direction of the sunset, “where the light dies.” In the east, on the other hand, is where we see the first light of the dawn, casting away the darkness.
The Pope explained that in the ancient Church, during the rite of Baptism, the catechumens would make the first part of their profession of faith facing the west. When questioned, “do you renounce Satan, his favors, and all his works?” facing the west, they would respond “I renounce!” They would then turn to face the east, the direction of the Orient, for the question: “do you believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” this time responding, “I believe!” In our own Baptisms today there is the beautiful sign of the lit baptismal candle, showing the importance of light, he continued.
Using a word he called “a bit strong,” the Pope said: “the life of the Church is contamination of light.” “I would like to ask you: how many of you remember the date of your Baptism?” he asked. “Think, and if you do not remember it, today you have homework: go to your mom, your dad, your aunt, your uncle, your grandmother, grandpa and ask them, ‘What is my Baptism date?’” He then instructed them not to forget it, adding that today’s commitment is to learn and remember your date of baptism, “which is the date of rebirth, is the date of light, it is the date in which,” he emphasized, “we have been contaminated by the light of Christ.”
It is a great grace when a Christian really becomes a bearer of Christ in the world, he said, especially for those who are in mourning, despair or darkness. And this can be understood in many small details, such as a light in the eyes, staying at peace, even during complicated times, and the desire “to restart well, even when many disappointments have been experienced.”
“We are the ones who believe that God is the Father: this is the light!” he said. “We believe that the Holy Spirit works without rest for the sake of humanity and the world, and even the greatest pains of history will be overcome: this is the hope that resounds every morning!” “We believe that every affection, every friendship, every good wish, every love, even the most minute and neglected ones, will one day find their fulfillment in God: this is the force that drives us to embrace our everyday life with enthusiasm!”
“And,” he concluded, “this is our hope: living in hope and living in light, in the light of God the Father, in the light of Jesus the Savior, in the light of the Holy Spirit that drives us to move on in life.”