Baptised by the Spirit
Sunday, 7th January 2018
A homeless man told this story: “I was walking down Shop St. in Sligo and I fell into a huge hole and I couldn’t get out. A doctor passed by and I shouted, “Hey Doctor, help me out!” but he just wrote out a prescription and threw it into the hole. Then a priest passed by and I shouted, “Hey Father, help me out of this hole!” but he just wrote out a prayer and threw it in on top of me. Then a social worker passed by and I shouted, ‘Hey you, help me out of this hole’ but he just threw in some money and walked on. Then Murphy passed by and I shouted, “Hey Murphy, help me out of this hole!” And what do you think, Murphy jumped into the hole beside me and I said to him, ‘Murphy, you’re a fool! Now we’re both stuck in this hole!” But Murphy said, “Don’t worry. I know this hole well and I know the way out! Follow me!”
In the gospel today, we see Jesus in a ‘Murphy’ moment! Jumping into the situation all his people are in! They are his people. He is one of them. He wants to be one of them. He knows that it’s only as one of them that he can lead them out – through patient teaching, work and suffering. Follow me! How often Jesus said that! Today he wants to officially begin this work. But John the Baptist objects, “You don’t need my baptism! Mine is a baptism of repentance. You don’t need that. This is foolish. This is all wrong!” And Jesus says, “Let it be so for now. This is the way God wants. So please baptise me, bless me, and anoint me for my ministry!” Jesus had been waiting for the right moment and the right way to begin his life’s mission. That moment has come, and he has come to see that God’s way to realise his vision is the way of patient teaching, personal contact and challenging the religious ‘status quo’ as John had been doing. And just as Pope Francis is trying to do again in our time!
Remember when he stood on the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica just after he was elected? After his few words of greeting to the thousands gathered in the square, he asked them to please pray to the Lord for him – to bless him as he began his ministry. And he stood with head bowed as the people prayed in silence. I’m sure they were just as surprised as John the Baptist!
Each of us was anointed at our baptism to spread the good news of Jesus, to help people experience the joy of the children of God and to lead them out of whatever hole keeps them enslaved. As church, too, we need to pray constantly that, under the leadership of Pope Francis, we dig ourselves out of the many holes we’ve dug for ourselves over the centuries and admit we got many things wrong.