Welcome back to Ordinary Time! I love the pace of this season. Each year the Church allows us to work our way through a gospel—this year it’s Matthew—as we get to know Jesus through one set of eyes. Occasionally there are a few “excursions” into another gospel, and today is one of them. Last week we heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, and today we hear from John’s gospel of the moment just after the baptism. John the Baptist saw “the Spirit descend and remain” on Jesus, and thus knew that Jesus is the One, the Son of God. When the Church gives us two readings in a row that describe the same scene, I think we need to pay attention to the message.
So what is that message? It has to do with the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of the first believers even thought that it wasn’t until that moment that Jesus “became” God’s Son. (Of course, under the guidance of that same Spirit the Church came to profess that Jesus was always God, that his humanity and divinity are inseparable.) Nevertheless, the early Church was emphatic that with God’s Spirit we receive a mission and the strength to carry it out. It was after his baptism that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, as we will hear in Lent, and then on to his public ministry.
After the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Charismatic movement grew up, emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our prayer. Yet the Spirit is not just for Charismatics. Each of us receives the Spirit at our own baptism. Each of us who is confirmed receives the Spirit yet again, giving us strength to be witnesses to the faith. The Holy Spirit enables us in each new Christian adventure. Now as we move toward our transition to being a “Family of Parishes”, the role of the Spirit will be essential in our journey. We on the Transition team need guidance; we need wisdom, and faith, and courage. All those are gifts of the Spirit. Yet it is not just the ordained, or the Transition Team, who have received the Holy Spirit: all of us who have been baptized have received the same Spirit, and all of us will have a role to play.
And as you read this I will be away for my annual retreat, and some vacation days. I count on your prayer while I am away, and assure you of mine. Pray for Fr. Steven and Fr. Leo and all our parish team. It is reassuring to go away knowing that you are in such capable hands. May the Spirit we receive in baptism guide and strengthen us.