THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 MACCABEES 7: 1 - 2. 9 - 14] is more easily understood if seen in direct relation to THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 20: 27...
Last week a part of our reflection was to focus on the gifts of the Wise Men and the gifts we offer to and for the Lord. This week we change our focus to the gifts we have received from Christ.
This Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord emphasises the fact that before beginning his public ministry the Father gifted the Son with the Holy Spirit. While clearly recognizing that Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist was not a sacramental Baptism
(which Jesus did not stand in need of) as we understand and celebrate the Sacrament, it was of vital importance that the Lord should associate himself with the Baptist’s ministry. John was initiating among the people of Israel a complete ‘turn about’ from the then current official trend of minimising and corrupting Jewish Faith and practice. Jesus was, in his ministry, to build on the Baptist’s foundation. The ordinary Jewish folk were eager and hungry for what the Lord would do and say. They were hungry for God!
If we carefully read
OUR OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [ISAIAH 55: 1 – 11] we will recognise the basics of the Baptist’s preaching. “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way … let him return to the Lord.“ This is the atmosphere in which TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 1: 7 – 11] records the Lord’s temporary participation in John’s ministry and renewal campaign. In so doing Christ gives his stamp of approval and he will use the Baptist’s ministry as a stepping stone to his own. John the Baptist himself declared that “after me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.“ Now we are able to discern the start of the closing phase of God’s promise that “so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty. … it shall accomplish that which I intend and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.“ (see the Isaiah reading)
So the stage is set for the Lord to begin his ministry. Our Gospel concludes with the witness of “the Spirit descending upon him … and a voice (saying) you are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” Jesus had been gifted with the Spirit.
We also have been gifted with the same Spirit and this gifting happened at our own Baptisms.
There we were “born of God“ – as recorded in OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 JOHN 5: 1 – 9]. At our Baptisms, immediately after the water was poured on our heads, we are anointed with chrism by the words “as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live as a member of his body … .”
The Baptist was called to a ministry, and Jesus was sent for his ministry. By our own Baptisms we have been both called and sent – called and sent to
“live as a member of his body.” We have been anointed (GIFTED) to do it. It is easy to become hesitant and downplay our abilities (especially as we grow older and frailer) but our New Testament reading tells us that “whatever is born of God overcomes the world.“ Am I born of God or am I not? Do not be afraid to live as one who has been gifted by God through his Spirit. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.“ Our good God is never finished with us.
The plan of God is there. It was there in the Baptist’s living and in Jesus’. It is also there –
AND HERE – in mine. I am born of God and have been gifted to live as such.