Vatican City, Jan 25, 2018 / 10:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At an ecumenical Vespers service Thursday, Pope Francis told members of several Christian communities that the grace of Baptism creates a unity in the family of God.
Even when differences separate us, we can recognize that we have the same Baptism, and we belong “to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the one Father,” the Pope said Jan. 25.
“This is our experience as believers. As we grow in spiritual life, we increasingly understand that grace reaches us together with others and is to be shared with others. So, when I raise my thanksgiving to God for what he has done in me, I find I do not sing alone, because other brothers and sisters have my same song of praise.”
Francis spoke during a Vespers service in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to mark both the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year focused on the theme: “Powerful is your hand, Lord.”
In his homily, the Pope reflected on our common Baptism using imagery from the story of the rescue of the baby Moses from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter.
This story is seen as a prefigurement of the rescue of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, he said, who were rescued from the Egyptians when Moses led them through the parted Red Sea unharmed, the waters then pouring down on their enemies.
“Many ancient Fathers understood this liberating passage as an image of Baptism,” Francis explained. “It is our sins that have been drowned by God in the living waters of Baptism.”
“Much more than Egypt, sin threatened to make us slaves forever, but the power of divine love overwhelmed it.” He also said that St. Augustine interpreted the Red Sea as an anticipatory sign of the blood of “Christ crucified, source of salvation.”
All of us Christians have passed through the waters of Baptism, and the grace of the Sacrament has destroyed our enemies, sin and death,” he emphasized.
However, our experience of God’s love and tenderness in our daily lives should not just be kept in our hearts, he stated. These individual experiences can be linked to an even greater history, that of the salvation of the people of God.
He pointed to the example of the song intoned by the Israelites in Exodus, which begins with an individual story: “My strength and my song is the Lord, he has been my salvation.”
“But later it becomes a narrative of salvation for all the people: ‘You guided with your love this people you redeemed.’ Those who raise this song have realized that they are not alone on the shores of the Red Sea, but that they are surrounded by brothers and sisters who have received the same grace and proclaim the same praise.”
In the last 100 years, the different Christian confessions have realized that we are standing together on the same shores of the Red Sea, he continued. We have all been saved through our Baptism, and can sing a grateful song of praise together.
Today, “in a world that is increasingly rich in means and poor in love,” Christians and people of other religions face many attacks on human dignity, the Pope said, such as religious persecution, modern forms of slavery, hardship and hunger.
“But like the Israelites of Exodus, Christians are called to safeguard together the memory of what God has accomplished in them.”
Led by Pope Francis, the Vespers service was attended by representatives from various Christian churches and communities in Rome, including Metropolitan Gennadios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Most Reverend Bernard Ntahoturi, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury; students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey; and members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
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