Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
(Isaiah 42:1-4.6-7; Mark 1: 7-11)
After the Revolutionary War the United States were floundering. States’ representatives could not agree. The nation’s currency failed to win confidence. Something had to be done. The Federalists devised a workable government order, but there was still need for leadership. The people looked to George Washington to make the critical difference. However trivial the comparison may seem, today’s gospel looks to Jesus in a similar way.
John tells the people that his baptism is but a shadow of that of the mightier one who is to come. John’s baptism forgives sins, but the mightier one’s will bestow the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, John implies, will remake the entire nation in righteousness and power. Israel will then whip the world into shape. The rest of the passage pictures this prophecy being fulfilled with Jesus. He receives the Holy Spirit from on high along with recognition of being God’s Son. He will now lead the nation to glory.
Jesus goes about his work in an unconventional way. He does indeed create a righteous nation but not a political entity. He stirs up a revolution within the hearts of those who hear his voice. It moves them to set aside a narrow self-love to see the graciousness of God’s love and to respond to it in kind. The result has been the saints who lead the rest of us to a renewed humanity.