Today as we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. Mark passes over the baptism quickly to move on to the role of the Holy Spirit, who is featured in this brief gospel account. Jesus’ infancy, which we have celebrated during Christmas, has ended and we are introduced to the adult who is commencing his public ministry with the descent of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation to us that he is God’s “beloved Son.” From now on all he does and says is as God’s beloved and under the influence of the Spirit. In this, he is well-equipped for his life of mission and ministry.
We cannot reflect on Jesus’ baptism without feeling linked to him through our own. We too have been baptized as servants to a loving God. The baptized community is united to Christ and one another. When we were baptized, we also received the Spirit. We began to experience the love of God in a more intimate way and were sent forth into the world to share the Good News. One of the smaller rituals within the Ritual of Baptism is when the priest touches the ears and mouth of the child saying, “May the Lord soon touch your ears to hear his word and your mouth to proclaim His Gospel.”
Mark’s account reminds us that we are a community connected to one another through our baptism. We are not saved by ourselves. We are not alone on our journey with Christ. We are a community on a pilgrimage together through history.
In the Gospels, the narratives of Jesus’ baptism begin by telling us, “The people were filled with expectation and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” John did his job well. He got his hearers fired up and excited with expectation. Could it be that God was finally coming to set Israel free? Finally, after all the generations of waiting under oppressive foes, after longing for so long, God was coming to deliver them. Well, Jesus was not exactly what the people expected or hoped for. He certainly did not make his entrance at the head of a powerful army to overthrow the Romans. If they had reflected on our reading from the prophet Isaiah, those who were with Jesus at his baptism and throughout his ministry, would have been better prepared for Christ and his ways.
The Isaiah passage is the first of four Songs of the Suffering Servant. These songs describe the one appointed by God who will free Israel. This servant will be anointed by God’s Spirit and will call people to God with a gentle voice (“not crying out, not shouting”) and a kind presence. He will not be coercive; not threaten people with God’s vengeance.
Those of us who respond to Jesus, the gentle servant God has sent us, have, in our baptism, entered into a new life in the Spirit. We might say that God could have picked a better crew of workers to accomplish the plans God has for the world. We may not be extraordinary, but we have been anointed by the Spirit. So, we always have with us the intimate presence of God, the foundation of our lives and the driving energy that sends us into the world. After Jesus’ baptism he went on mission. Our baptism impels us to do similarly, in the many and diverse places God has sent us.
One place his Spirit has led us is here to worship. Together we are moved to pray, not only for our personal needs, but for the church, the community of the baptized. Still more, the Spirit moves us to pray for our world, and to become instruments for peace and justice among all peoples.