By Sr. Karen Freund
This wonderful feast of the Baptism of the Lord officially closes the Christmas season. Mark’s version, used in today’s gospel, says,
“On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'”
In a few succinct words, Mark draws from both Isaiah and Ezekiel. Mark’s listeners were familiar with these prophets and would have heard their words endorsing the identity and mission of Jesus. Their words hail Jesus as chosen, sent, anointed, empowered, beloved. Later, at the beginning of his public life, Jesus himself also read from the prophet Isaiah as he worshipped with his own Jewish community. His words on that occasion, found in Luke 4:16-22, could actually be called his mission statement. They are echoed in today’s second reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
“…You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Through our own baptism, we too are incorporated into the great Paschal Mystery of Jesus. We are gifted with the same Spirit. God nudges us along every day through prayer and grace, sometimes recognized by us only in retrospect. As we come to accept our status as human persons who are both body and spirit, we learn to balance and integrate God’s grace with our own efforts. We are challenged to live the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one” in family, community, and global relationships. We also learn to forgive ourselves and others.
Through life’s joys and sorrows, in times of peace and solidarity and even through pandemics, we seek to live what we believe. Over a lifetime, God’s mission through Jesus inspires our own. Because Jesus’ mission is clearly one of justice, ours is too. This present Covid-19 struggle presents real challenges to our usual ways of reaching out. So, I offer here one simple, practical suggestion to consider:
We can always pray for one another’s needs and concerns. Alfred Lord Tennyson rightly observed, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Our parish Long Term Care group is organizing a prayer chain. To receive their listing of people and intentions to pray for, or if you yourself want to ask for prayers, please contact Susan Devaney at [email protected]. She will email this list to you. Bringing our needs to God’s heart is an act of faith and love that changes our own hearts as well. It might even help us hear God speaking to us the words he spoke to Jesus, “You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased.”