This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Hearing the Divine Voice of Love
In this Gospel for the feast of the baptism of the Lord (Mark 1: 7-11), Jesus emerges from the waters of the Jordan, the heavens open, and a voice says, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” The Spirit, in the form of a dove, accompanies this voice and descends on Jesus.
Christian faith holds what happens at the baptism of Jesus happens at the baptisms of all Christians. Of course, the dramatic rendering of a heavenly voice and descending dove are not discernible by our eyes and ears. But the revelation of love is the same.
The one baptized enters into a beloved relationship with God empowered by the Spirit. Most likely, we were baptized a long time ago as children. But baptism is not a single, solidarity experience that is over and done with. It is an inaugural event that unfolds and develops.
As we go through life, what happens to our baptismal identity as one who hears the Divine Voice of Love?
Sometimes we hear the Divine Voice of love mediated through many human voices. Our parents, grandparents, families, friends, and many others tell us, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, we are loved. In and through their good will and affection, the suspicion grows that Ultimate Reality is the inspiration and energy of this love. The Divine Voice of baptism is confirmed and strengthened.
But sometimes mediating voices are absent. We are not surrounded by human loves and their affirming voices. In fact, the opposite may be the case. It is not only that human love is absent, but it is also that human rejection is consistently present. We are told we are nothing so often we begin to believe it. And, more tragically, we begin to act like it.
In times like this, we must hold onto the baptismal truth. Trust the single sentence of love more than a chorus of negative voices. “You are my beloved daughter/son in whom I am well pleased.”
Believe it and live out of it.
© John Shea