Sunday, January 10, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

"The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts."

How profound is this moment? They were so taken by John and his ways, by his preaching and challenging, they actually thought he might be the Christ.

But John sets them straight. He begins to open up the meaning of the Christ and does so by reflecting upon the difference between his baptism and the one coming from the Lord.

John's forgives sin. Jesus' baptism is a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire that is all consuming, a radical rebirth and a moment of total commitment.

Was this too much to say? Was John exaggerating? Was his humility blurring his vision?

A moment later, the skies open up; the Holy Spirit descended over Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven declares, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

This is indeed a dramatic, important and revealing scene. In this entrance of Jesus into the public forum, both John the Baptist and God from above affirm and declare the person and the ministry of Jesus which now begins.

Whatever the literal and exact content of this moment, it nonetheless contains some really interesting details.

There is great excitement and expectation on the part of the people who have come out to see John the Baptist. There is confusion about John’s identity and also the identity of Jesus. John understands and sets the record straight and it is confirmed in a sacred experience of God. As always, the scriptures speak to us on many levels and this passage is no different.

We, too, are born into the world usually accompanied by great expectation and hearts full of love. We, too, have an identity that is recognized yet is just beginning to be realized.

On the day of our own baptism there is a new and deeper identity realized and affirmed by God. The "heavens open, the Spirit descends, and a voice also proclaims" that we are a child of God, and his grace is fully upon us.

If we don’t admit all of this then the story of our baptism is — although a pretty celebration and a familial and social event — not really worth retelling.

But if the details of our baptism are true, like this event at the beginning of Jesus' ministry — we become a child of God, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire — then this event is God-filled, it redefines who we really are, and being reborn truly describes what takes place. We are new! We are filled with grace! We are anointed by the Holy Spirit and sealed, loved, protected, illuminated, guided, and forgiven of sin!

Today's Gospel begins: "The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts."

Why? Because God has made something beyond human value true in each of us that forever changes who we are, who we become and our eternal destiny.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6124, Ext. 112; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

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