In the beginning of Luke’s gospel we hear that the people were filled with expectation. There was a feeling in the air that they were on the cusp of something new. There was a sense that the Messiah would soon be among them. Many thought John the Baptist was the expected one but he made it clear to all he was not the one. Someone would follow him and the people should accept him.
I think that for many Canadians today there is that same sense of expectancy. We are in for sunny days though realistically we know not all days will be sunny days. We are hopeful for a time of openness and co-operation among our politicians. We are hopeful that the peoples of our first nations will receive the respect and the justice that is their due. We are hopeful that our government will be more sensitive to the environmental crisis of our future survival. We are hopeful of a co-operative and open leadership. We are hopeful.
Last week we celebrated the Epiphany, Christ was manifested by a star. Today Christ is manifested, made known by the heavens opening above him and the Spirit of God descending upon him in the form of a dove and a voice claiming, ‘you are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus for his mission to open the eyes of the blind, to set captives free from the chains of sin, to set the downtrodden free and bring to all the good news of salvation.
Jesus, the sinless son of God had no need of baptism but he wanted to be identified with the people who came to John. Those people wanted to come closer to God and by letting themselves be immersed into the flowing waters they let go in their hearts and surrendered they lives to God and sought a new beginning in their friendship with God.
Today we can think back to our own baptisms. Can we get our heads around the fact that when each one of us was baptized the Holy Spirit was poured into our very being and that Spirit gives us the boldness and confidence to call God – Father/Mother. God is not some distant diety, God is not ‘the force’. Each one of us is a son, a daughter of our Father/ Mother. Isaiah asks the question,’can a mother forget her baby, or a woman the child with her womb? Yet even if these forget I will never forget you.
Our baptism is our birthing into a living and loving relationship with God. Can we get our heads around the wonder that God’s love for us is unmerited and unconditional. The fact is that nothing we can ever do can make God love us less and nothing we can ever do can ever stop God’s loving us. Our baptism is our invitation to put on Christ, to grow to full maturity in Christ. Baptism is not a one shot deal it is our first step in a life-long adventure to follow Jesus in such a way that at any time in our lives the Father can say of us what he said of Jesus at the Jordon, ’You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, with you I am well pleased.’
Our life long project is to be as Christ -like as possible and that seems like an impossible task. And it is, if we are without the presence and help of Christ. As often as we try to an open and accepting of other people, as Christ always was then we are on the right track. As often as we are there for men and women in need – when we welcome the stranger, when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, support those who are depressed, in whatever form such people come into our lives, then we are putting on Christ, we are growing in Christ.
On this feast of the Baptism of Jesus we recall our own baptism and pray for the gift to live each day of our lives in such a way that the Father/Mother can say ‘you are my son, my daughter, my beloved, with you I am well pleased’. Realistically we know that some days we’ll win and other days we’ll lose but always we’ll keep on trying.