“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”— John the Baptist’s exhortation to the Pharisees and Sadducees who had no intention of dipping their feet into the water, but whom John noted, were among those who came to see, like we do in T&T when drama emerges. Luke captured the moment in time, as did Matthew. We too should take note.
T’was quite an extraordinary religious experience with plenty imagery, a highly visual mysterious scene, as described by two commentators, Fr Michel De Verteuil CSSp and Thomas O’Loughlin. The Holy Spirit descended like a dove from heaven. God touched humanity, the voice from heaven made an impact declaring ownership, sonship, intimate love, divine communion, and solidarity with mere mortals as we sometimes perceive ourselves, not acknowledging who and what we are.
Christian baptism today also symbolises repentance, cleansing and commitment, with a particular emphasis. It’s our identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Christian baptism is a symbol of complete cleansing, commitment which flows from being made ‘new’, empowered by the Holy Spirit, our hearts made ready to receive our Saviour.
It’s a special occasion when we catch a spiritual fire which tempers our mettle and makes us fit for purpose. That is, if we follow the course and not be distracted or diverted by the cold river water of our personal Jordan—teeming with shiny, darting fishy life, potholes of corruption, rocks of hard decisions upon which we can so easily stumble. All this goes beyond John the Baptist’s intuitive and missionary action.
The vision to which we may usefully be drawn is still strong on warning but with a more joyful message which requires our intentional action. The Good News is that Christ has come. He is here. He will come again at which point we’ll be called to respond with a report of what we have done to spread the Gospel of inclusion, compassion, and hope of redemption.
The Kingdom is here and we are called, baptised and empowered to quell the ultimately useless diversions, break the old and establish the new. As Jesus embraced His divine sonship and power of favour, we too as children so empowered must work to build the desirable culture of real family—not of clan, kinship or patriarchy of old, but on acceptance of the Kingdom of God.
Each of us needs to listen to that voice which calls us by name, and invites repentance, action with mercy and love, forgiveness, and evangelisation by the witness of our willingness to serve our neighbour, whatever his/her station in life.
The voice proclaiming sonship speaks to all of us, regardless of gender. Luke noted, as we should, the significance of prayer in being able to hear the voice. Beyond the transcendence of the symbols, the presence of God shows up in the whole Trinitarian family when the heavens opened. That cosmic energy, the relationality of Yahweh, Spirit, Word, gentle and resolute in their descent on humanity affect the hearts on the scene.
Let us listen to God’s voice. Claim our identity. Discern the spirit which is allowed to descend on us. Having accepted baptism, how are we claiming our true identity as children of God: loved, favoured, sent in relationship with and for each other’s good? Take time to “withdraw for prayer regularly, maintaining the vertical relationship, the better to be authentic lovers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, teachers, servant-leaders and friends producing good fruit”.