Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan marks the beginning of his public ministry. Heralded by John, met with expectation by the people awaiting the Anointed One, Jesus receives his baptism, then enters into prayer. Out of the silence, God’s voice opens the heavens. Out of the heavens, the Holy Spirit descends, embodied as a dove. The moment affirms God’s creative pleasure, God’s Incarnation, and God’s Holy Spirit—all the members of the Trinity. The Gospel recounts a family story: of the cousins John and Jesus; and of the Father, Son, and Spirit. What does it tell us about our life as a family in Christ, a vocational community? What can we learn from Jesus and John about our collective mission?
The baptism of John calls for repentance, for a turning away from “things as they are,” to make way for the newness of God. Jesus doesn’t require baptism, but by it takes his stand against the rigid, shallow, and corrupt religious institutions of his day. He turns his back on the status quo. Then, he prays. While he is caught up in prayer, a visible, animate, sign of the Spirit appears, anointing Jesus in the presence of the people. God speaks words of affirmation to his Son, pleased with Jesus before Jesus has even begun his ministry, before he has done the first thing!
The life of Christian discipleship demands that we, too, turn our backs on the status quo to walk towards the Kingdom and try to bring it to earth. Like Jesus, we must pray, placing our trust in God as we prepare each day for mission. We need to keep our eyes open to the presence of the Holy Spirit expressed in the circumstances and the people of our lives. And, we need words of affirmation to bless us as we offer ourselves to the world.
What does this Gospel passage reveal to us as a community of mission? God is present to us and through us. God speaks to the Truth, affirming Jesus as his Son, and we speak to the Truth as members of the Order of Preachers. Just as the community of God is present in this reading—Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit—we hope to be present to each other. As a discipleship community we can, and have been, available to each other in a variety of ways. We continue to meet every month since the friars left Raleigh, despite our grief and any number of possible excuses. We overturn the status quo by committing to meet in Wilmington once a year in response to Charlotte’s request. In silence, we hold each other in prayer, honoring the plethora of transitions in the lives of our members: housing relocations, employment changes, and challenges in our family lives. By our emails, texts, and phone conversations, we offer the affirmation so essential to encouragement, to keeping us faithfully upon the path.
In light of this scripture passage, we can ask ourselves, “How can we let God speak to us, through us, to one another? How responsive are we to each other?” Let us recognize how much love we demonstrate for each other, how free we are to offer ourselves, authentically, into our family of mission. As John the Baptist’s life affirms, there is no mission too small, too discrete, to be of value to the Kingdom. The important thing is to offer ourselves to our mission in a spirit of joy. Let us be pleased with one another, affirming each other at every turn. Let us have more joy in our community, where we are, right now.
May we continue to listen for God’s voice leading us into mission, for and with each other, to the glory of God.
The St. Mary Magdalene Dominican Laity of Raleigh