Becoming God’s Gift | Word from the Shepherd No. 161

Baptism of the Lord | Year C
Isa.40:1-11; Titus 2:13,14;3:4-7; Lk.3:15-22

A group of disciples were determined to go on a pilgrimage. So the Master gave them a bitter gourd to take along. Then he said, “Make sure you dip this bitter gourd in all the holy rivers, holy waters and bring it into the holy shrines”. After 3 days, the disciples returned. The master took the bitter gourd and cooked it, gave them to each as “holy food”. They all ate it. Then, the Master said, “Strange, the holy rivers, the holy waters and the holy places did not make the bitter gourd sweet.

Sometimes we think external things or actions can change us, can change what we are. Sometimes we think baptism changes us, will make us sweet. Baptism is God’s gift to us; but WHAT WE BECOME IS OUR GIFT TO GOD.

There are 2 aspects in this great gift, Baptism, ie. the encounter and the sending.

  1. The ENCOUNTER is reflected in the experience of Jesus at the River Jordan. Upon His baptism, the heavens opened, one like a dove descended, a voice was heard and it said: “This is my Beloved Son. My favour rests with Him”.

    Baptism is not just a rite; not a ceremony; not a magical moment. It is an encounter with a Living God, who revealed Himself as The Father, who sees  us as His beloved sons and daughters.

    That is the greatest affirmation- to be reckoned by God as his beloved. Even the devil will test Jesus on this affirmation, when he asks, “if you are the son of God….” in the 3 temptations.
  2. The SENDING or Mission entrusted to the One who is called.
    Prophet Isaiah is sent by Yahweh:
    1. to console, be a voice, be a joyful messenger;
    2. to the heart of Jerusalem;
    3. tasked to prepare a way, shout loud and without fear;
    4. to proclaim that the good news that God is the shepherd who feeds, gathers, holds us close to himself and leads us to rest – is here.

What do we notice about the people who came to the wilderness?

First, they came with expectancy. They wanted something more to their lives. They came to the desert or wilderness to be filled.

Secondly, they came to the “voice in the wilderness”, John the Baptist, to show them the way or the how.

Thirdly, they got more. They were pointed to the Jesus, the One-who-comes-after, the One-who-is-more powerful, the One-who-will-baptised-with-the-Holy Spirit, and;

Finally, they were consumed by the encounter, the enlightenment, the empowerment and the evangelium or good news.

What strikes me are these words from Luke 3:15 “…a feeling of expectancy had grown among the people…”

Maybe we have many expectations, but very little expectancy. Is this the spirit or attitude that moves God to act, to intervene or answer prayers?

Expectancy is based on the word of God, the prophecies and the promises of God. Knowing God, His ways and His word is essential for wanting to see God’s plan. Expectancy among the people triggers miracles. 

Maybe it is time to expect more from our baptism. If it was only a rite then, it is time to go deeper into it, to experience what Jesus felt and to live that new life in the Spirit. It is also time to expect more from ourselves as the baptised. Sow little and you reap little. We desire God to perform, but how much is our giving?

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord and the reminder of Pope Francis that “we are baptised and sent” is clear. More is expected from us. Expect to know more. Expect to become more. Expect to do more. Then, we become the glory of God and become a GIFT TO GOD. No holy water, no holy river, no holy place, no baptism is going to change us, until we become more than who we are in God’s eyes.

  “What we are is God’s Gift to us, what we become is Our Gift to God.”