Baptism of the Lord – January 10, 2016

Recently, I had to make a confession of sin to my automobile mechanic. I stood at the door of the repair shop, looking as repentant as possible, and confessed, “My car has an owner problem.” For several months I had noticed corrosion accumulating on the battery terminal, but I didn’t do anything about it. One night, after a few meetings at the Parish Office, I got in the car to drive home, but it wouldn’t start. The battery terminal and electrical cable had disintegrated completely.

I went to the dealership to buy a new terminal and power cable, and learned that the cable was not replaceable; it was integrated into the engine wiring harness. Luckily, I found a short-term solution, and drove to the repair shop. I confessed my sin, expecting that my mechanic would have to work a miracle in order to repair the car. He looked at the problem, retrieved a tool from a cabinet, and fixed the problem within a few minutes. I became very envious of the electrical repair tool, and thought, “I need that. A tool like that one would make my life so much easier.”

Luke’s Gospel describes Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, and says, “the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” (Luke 3:22) In the Scriptures, the term “holy Spirit” means “Divine power.” Luke is saying that, at his baptism, Divine power descended on Jesus. The description of Jesus’ baptism is a foreshadowing of his ministry. (Luke 4:14)

When Jesus preached, people were amazed at his teaching because he spoke under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. (Luke 4:22) His many miracles were also instances of the exercise of Divine power. (Luke 4:36) Luke’s Gospel begins Jesus’ ministry with a clear sign that it was God’s power, the holy Spirit, that led Jesus, and directed his ministry.

We might be tempted to say to ourselves, “I need that. A portion of Divine power would make my life so much easier.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could count on Divine help in our daily lives? Wouldn’t it make things so much simpler? The Gospel says that Jesus shared with his disciples the same Divine power that he had exercised during his lifetime. (Luke 24:49) At his ascension they were filled with Divine power, and commissioned to be his witnesses.

In our Baptism, we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We share also in Jesus’ Divine power. There is no need to wish for Divine help; we have already the promise of Divine help, when we live as faithful witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are, however, two important lessons that the baptism of Jesus teaches us about Divine power. First of all, one receives Divine power only by being obedient to God’s will. The voice that spoke from heaven was acknowledgment of Jesus’ obedience to God. (Luke 3:22) Secondly, Divine power isn’t given in order to serve our personal needs; it is given in order that we might imitate Jesus by announcing good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. (Luke 4:18)

The Divine power given to Jesus was for the purpose of announcing the nearness of God’s Kingdom. (Luke 4:43) Jesus didn’t intend to serve his own needs or fulfill his own desires. (Luke 22:42) The most common mistake we make is that we put our desires ahead of God’s will. We try to use wrongly the Divine help we already have. Is it any wonder that we feel we still need God’s help?

As I said, the divine power that is offered to us in Baptism doesn’t become active in our lives by magic, or by wishing it. The divine power that is offered to us in Baptism becomes active in our lives solely as a result of discipleship. This means that both of the prerequisites for our access to Divine power are fulfilled at once. When we give our complete loyalty to Jesus, when we trust in God above all else, we have access to divine power – the same divine power that Jesus exercised.

It isn’t necessary for us to feel like we are on the outside of the good work the Church does, looking in. It isn’t necessary to be envious of those who dedicate their lives to serve the poor and marginalized. We have God’s help readily available whenever we make the faithful effort to do as Jesus did, to announce good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. (Luke 4:18) It is isn’t necessary to wish that God would look upon us as if we were God’s beloved children. We are already so by our Baptism, and we are called to the life of discipleship. The world needs that!