January 10, 2021 At St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL
Isaiah 42, 1-4, 6-7 + Psalm 29 + Acts 10, 34-38 + Mark 1, 7-11
It is only the seventh verse of Mark’s Gospel. There has been nothing about a birth, the location, or the visitors. In Mark’s Gospel, there is a quotation from the Prophet Isaiah to confirm the work of John the Baptist, and the suddenly, there he is, Jesus, coming up from Nazareth: no choir of angels, no star, no shepherds or magi, just Jesus and John who says nothing in the presence Jesus. The only words are those Jesus hears: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased, and he saw something. Mark tells that he saw the heavens open in the same way the curtain of the Temple would be torn open at the moment of his death. There is no longer anything keeping the divine from the human and human from the divine. It is a moment of revelation for Jesus: Heaven is open to earth. Then comes from Mark a revelation of the Trinity as the Spirit descended upon him.
Out of the waters of the Red Sea emerged the chosen people. Across the Jordan, led by Joshua, the people of God entered the promised land. Now Mark is announcing a new Passover, a new moment of creation. “Spirit” means the “Breath of God”. It is blowing on the water again, and up out of that water comes the new creation, the new Adam, the Son of God. The whole wonder of the Incarnation is described for us here. Heavens opened. Now through Jesus Christ it’s all accessible to us. What was closed by the of Adam and Eve is now wide open because of the choice of Jesus Christ. He chooses to be Baptized. How else could he identify with us completely enter into our human condition?
Whatever Jesus had been doing before, coming up from the water was his moment to discern how God’s life would fill him and call him forth. He heard a voice just like we all hear a voice now and then. We all heard when we were little. That voice when you wanted another candy bar, or just as you were about to escape the boundaries of the back yard. That voice said: “Don’t you dare. You know what Mom said.” Then we get older, and that voice is still there. It sometimes says: “That was dumb. What were you thinking?” That voice sometimes prods or clobbers, but eventually you learn to know that the voice is right. Then comes that time when we make friends with that voice and we talk: “I’m not sure what to do here.” “What was that all about?” Then, sometimes the voice speaks comforting words: “You belong. You are loved even if you deserve it.” That little voice is really the voice of God speaking to us in the events of our lives, in the people we love, and in moments of confusion and doubt. Jesus heard a voice that day that confirmed that he was loved by God and that he was God’s own.
What we celebrate on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord is what has happened to us all at our Baptism. It is nothing less and nothing more than hearing a voice that says, ‘You are mine.” From that moment on, we begin to live that way, to trust in the promise of those words. At the time we were brought to the waters of Baptism, we too were claimed by God with the sign of the cross traced on our foreheads. Like a brand that marks livestock for its owner, we have been branded for God. We have crossed over to new life and the heavens are open for us when we hear and head the Word of God. We are not called to simply worship and just believe in Jesus Christ. We are called to believe in ourselves and to believe that all of us are given a share in the same intimate relationship that Jesus experienced with our Father. We are invited to seek God’s will and experience what Jesus experienced when he was obedient to the Will of the Father to the end. When it was all over, as will be for us, God says, “Get up from that grave. Now you have my life in you.”